Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

I was at a party a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t a very large party, but dancing ensued, and there was, as the kids say, “a pretty chill vibe.” About everybody knew everybody.
Except for the “That Guy.” The “That Guy,” while well-meaning and ostensibly innocuous, didn’t realize that he didn’t know the other folks at the party as well as they knew each other – namely, those folks of the fairer sex – and, as the party continued into the wee hours of the morning with the same core group of familiars, he became increasingly intent on becoming more friendly with the girls in attendance through the act of dancing.
When you continually try to dance with a girl and she subsequently begins to dance with another guy as soon as you begin to saunter over, at which point she stops dancing with him and the next girl that you try to dance with subsequently saunters over to the same guy, repeated ad nauseum; your antenna is a bit bent, so to speak. You either don’t know that you’re clueless, or you don’t care.
Perhaps there would be something admirable about his persistence if it were transposed to a classroom setting. There is a rhythm, you see, to the learning process. You pursue something that once eluded you. But before you go charging forward, perhaps you should take a humbling moment and shut up.
It starts when you’re young, precocious, talkative, and “gifted.” You’re taught, perhaps, a reductionist, hippie-filtered version of the Socratic method: You are your teacher’s equal, and you must share your feelings with the class.
But are you sure that your geology class needs to know about the time you flew over the Grand Canyon? Did anybody in Major British Writers really care that you were going to London next term, and were they glad when you were gone?
So to you, my fellow extroverts, begin to identify when a professor begins to stop calling on you, when he or she explicitly asks you if what you plan to say is relevant to the matter at hand, shut up, and watch as your good-faith questions about course material will, finally, be appreciated, and not avoided! Questions are, mostly, good, unless it’s still first week, and you’re asking how many questions are going to be on the midterm.
Just remember that professors are not unlike my kind friends, the dancing girls, in that your professors don’t have to talk to you, and more importantly – they don’t have to like you. They are, though, trapped there for 70 minutes. The least you could do is let them teach.
Finally, just as the girls came to dance with each other, your professor did not come to talk to you personally! Be more judicious in class, and, in turn, maybe we, your peers, will stop rolling our eyes whenever you raise your hand.
Then again, maybe we won’t. But you’ll never know until you try.