35 students in an introduction to sociology course, in which I’ve tried to cultivate an ethic of participation + a question to which they have prepared a written answer ahead of time = 35 students looking at me as if I am speaking Aramaic when I ask them to discuss their answers to said question in class.

I return to my office after to read the written responses, which are very well-done and thoughtful.

What is the source of the gap between these two things? Is it simply not worth the effort to speak in class if that is not specifically rewarded? Or are students paralyzed by the fear of looking “stupid” or “know-it-all” in class? Or something else I can’t see?

I certainly don’t want to come to the same conclusion that the novelist Vladimir Nabokov came to when he was observing the students he taught at Stanford: “The great fraternity of C-minus, backbone of the nation, steadily scribbling on.”

Can I get a witness?


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