SPidge Tales

Monday, June 18, 2007

Kiss-Ass Brownnosing Students (We all know them)

The literature professor begins class with a written quote on the dry erase board:

“To be or not to be: That is the question.”

The professor speaks. “We come, finally, to our goal, our purpose, in this lesson on Hamlet. We are to study, and understand, the eternal question posed in our blackboard quote.”

A male student raises his hand. “Professor, I don’t see a blackboard quote. I see a quote on a dry-erase board, but there is no blackboard in this classroom.”

The professor does not even need to respond. One girl tells this young man to shut up. Another guy, clad in a hemp necklace and Phish t-shirt, appearing more concerned with—yes, to be stereotypical—the bag of weed waiting in his apartment for after class, says, “Dude, you’re not cool.”

The above scenario is fictional, but situations like this play themselves out everyday in college classrooms around the country. And I actually feel kind of bad for this student. There are always guys (and, sometimes, girls) willing and ready to speak out, entirely irrelevant to the class discussion topic, to get a laugh out of the class, to show the professor how witty they are, often in an attempt to impress the ladies. This fictional guy who made the blackboard comment, sadly, falls into the smaller category of awkward guys who can’t pull off a good joke, or even subtle humor, and just hit the ‘what the hell is your problem?’ zone, seen full mode in Super Troopers in the character of Rod Farva. But, at least this guy elicits some sympathy. I have no sympathy for the class brownnoser, or the know-it-all who loves to hear herself speak, or the class idiot.

The class brownnoser is that guy who raises his hand at the most inopportune, the most annoying, times. If the professor has made known his affinity for, say, Steve Carell’s character Michael in The Office, Mr. Brownnoser, you can be sure, will raise his hand and ask the professor’s opinion on Carell’s gay heartbroken Proust scholar character in Little Miss Sunshine, where everyone in the room can tell that he really is not asking the professor a question but bragging to the professor about sharing his artistic tastes. Mr. Brownnoser, having memorized his professor’s CV (Curriculum Vitae), will raise his hand and ask his professor to clarify a point in an essay he wrote in some obscure academic journal, when his real reason for opening his yap, again, is not for a clarification on some point made in a journal, but in bragging that he reads his favorite professor’s writings.

The know-it-all raises her hand all too frequently, not to butter-up the professor, but to butter-up herself. In a class on World War II history, she will be the one to raise her hand not to ask a question or make a real point, but to say how awful she thinks the Holocaust was. “Congratulations,” I feel like saying to her. “I’m glad to see you are against genocide. Now tell us something we don’t all know or agree on.” Sometimes, instead of raising her hand to make a statement showing how great she is, she will actually ask a question. The question will always be along the lines of, “in light of the fact that A is a result of B’s violation of C, following D’s appraisal of E, what would you say about F?” What she is really doing is not asking a question but showing how smart she is.

Worst of all is the class idiot. The class idiot is usually a non-traditional student, someone in her late thirties or forties. After raising a family and feeling a calling to something greater than her current career, she catches the academic bug and enrolls in the local college or university. She will always ask the dumbest questions; questions that don’t even need asking. She is the student who, for example, in a religion class, might say, “But I thought Jesus was a Christian,” after the professor tells the class that Jesus was a 1st century Jew. With a minute or two left in class, and the professor ready to release the students early, but not before his obligatory request for final questions and comments, the class idiot will be sure to raise her hand and keep the other students there past time.


Anonymous Nicolette Beard said...

Speaking of blackboards: I once dropped a Philosophy class because the professor spent the first class having us prove that the blackboard didn't exist!

If you think dumb/brown nose questions are only asked in class, wait until you attend a business related conference/workshop. Those guys/gals never change.

I finished my college degree at 33 and, though a big questioner of authority never asked idiot questions. I WAS astounded by the close-mindedness of my fellow 18-20 year-old students. My only hope was that the next few years would help to open their minds.

From where I sit, there's no better teacher than LIFE.

11:13 AM  

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