Sheltons Organic Turkey

if I empty out all the unimportant stuff here, maybe there'll be more room in my head for important things

name: shelton brett
location: western u.s.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

the conversations between profs and students

I recently watched Lions for Lambs. It was a fairly interesting movie, more about offering some political and foreign strategy opinions than entertainment, probably. One of the aspects of the movie I enjoyed was that it was offered in real-time, with multiple stories paralleling and intersecting each other. One of the story lines had Robert Redford's character in an hour-long meeting with one of his students. They discussed attendance and grades, participation in his (Redford's) class, sociopolitical stances and what it means to make a difference in government as an individual. At one point, Redford offers the student a "B" if he chooses to never come to class again, do no readings and offer no further participation, including to not sign up for any future classes or have future interactions with the professor. The idea behind this offer was to make the student choose: would he rather sit on the sidelines and watch the action, or would he rather become involved in what is happening around him. A choice for complacency versus action, to be satisfied, or act in an effort to make a difference.

If offering that choice to most students, what would they choose? This student remarked that given this choice, most students would jump at the chance for a B. In my experience, unfortunately, he might be right. But like Redford's character, I would probably only offer that kind of choice to students I didn't think would take it. What percentage of my students would that be? Really, it's not an ethical offer to make, so I wouldn't do it. But I wonder how many profs. might jump at the chance to make deals, just to make certain that they never see certain students again...

And if you're into conversations between students and professors, or at least, one-on-one interactions, there's probably nothing that I've seen that's scarier than Oleanna. I'd recommend it to everyone that doesn't get nauseous at Mamet's writing. I love the movie, it scares me to death.