The difficulty with squashing free speech in my classroom is that it takes a cattle prod to get them to say anything

Making the rounds on social media is this piece from the Chron about how state legislators are far more likely to be a threat to free speech than professors. I’m sure that’s right. Here’s my question:

Are you pipo high?

Not just the legislators, who are super vested in making symbolic, culture war gains that don’t really amount to a hill of beans. But everybody who is imagining classrooms full of eager young people just BURSTING with ideas that they wish to debate. All y’all.

Because this is what my undergrad classroom looks like day in and day out:

My students never want to say anything ever. It may be that they are terribly, terribly frightened of mean, mean, bad old me, or they just don’t like speaking extemporaneously, haven’t gotten around to the reading, or any other rationales, but students don’t volunteer to talk much. Some super-keeners do, but that’s just because they feel pity for me.

Undoubtedly all you poco/pomo education folks are just chomping at the bit to tell me that I’m doing it wrong, that if I just make learning INTO PLAY with games! Activities! Embodied learning! Yeah, I do all those things. Some students like that. I would have hated that shit as a student. There was NO faster way to make me shrink to the bottom of my seat than than some hippy dippy prof announcing “Form groups! Today we are going to simulate therapy!!” Retch, puke vomit.

And I know that isn’t a fair characterization of pomo/poco thought. But neither is condemning things as “drill and kill” or “sage on the stage” fair, either. Some of my happiest learning memories were with brilliant lecturers and devising clever systems to memorize things…rather than shifting the burden onto the professor to devise a clever system for me.

One thought on “The difficulty with squashing free speech in my classroom is that it takes a cattle prod to get them to say anything

  1. YES indeed! Honestly, I am cracking up — “Anyone, anyone….?” is totally the story of my undergrad classrooms, year after year, despite (yes, even with) occasional teaching awards. Not much EVER really gets them talking so I still feel the weight of my job, to prepare for and deliver a knock-out lecture each and every week, with lots of questions for reflection and time to let it all sink in. That, and some fun-ish hands-on assignments where they get to build shit,,, and talk about what they made and why, often with (and sometimes surprising) reference to lectures. Hooray! Sometimes it works. But it sure ain’t a threat, and it’s a pile of effort on my part. But that’s what I signed up for, go figure.

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