Everything I needed to know about how to pass freshmen English I learned from Oliver North

I'm not sure why my students like to flaunt in front of me how they have failed BEFORE FINAL GRADES HAVE BEEN TURNED IN. They come into my office and jokingly talk about how my class has afforded them fabulous naps. They blithely admit they haven't done ANY of the readings. They complain about how boring the textbook is, but then admit to never having opened it in the next breath. I tell them to their face, "Please don't say this in front of me. Allow me to have plausible deniability." But no, they absolutely insist on telling me about how little work they have actually done for the course. Which insures that next semester, I will have to require more work and put in more effort and spend effort only to be thwarted again. It's like my friend who used to work at American Scientific magazine once told me, the smartest rats in the world live in NYC. The better the trap, the stronger the poison, the more labyrinthine the trap, they smarter they get about everything, but the one thing you want them to learn.

Now I'm not entirely delusional. I understand that I grew up in a peculiar setting. A setting in which educational excellence was the chief virtue. I know that the vast majority of my students don't care about what I have to teach at all. I understand that they find my class useless. I know that my assignments will be the first to be put off or neglected. I know my class is often skipped or ignored. I know my students leave to get food and then come back. I am aware.

What I do expect is that my students will at least have the intelligence not to admit any of these activities to my face. If American politics have taught us nothing, they should have at least taught the majority of Americans about the importance of plausible denialibility. Allow me to have just enough ignorance that I can go home at night and not wail into my pillow about the ineffectiveness of my effort. Is that really so much to ask?

I am exhausted. Cashed. Burnt. Done. The timer should go off because I am crispy and golden at this point. I have put in all the energy I can, and yet still my students find ways around my requirements. I make them write two questions for every reading, yet still they manage not to read the homework. I require course discussion. They still manage to find nothing to say. I require attendance, they find excuses not to come to class and when I require documentation for missing classes, they find people to forge notes. Yet the simplest tasks, like proper MLA documentation of a works cited page WHICH I HAVE BEEN REVIEWING FOR ALMOST SEVEN MONTHS NOW manages to elude them. Even simple comma usage remains a well kept secret.

Now, I would love it if my students suddenly became the intellectually curious young adults that someone is spending a great deal of money to helping them become. But I know this won't happen. I know that even one or two of them will probably not became intellectually curious. Most of them want to keep their heads down and get across the diploma line with as little work as possible. Fine, great, ok. Just don't tell me about it. Smile. And pretend.

Doesn't anyone remember the fine art of brownnosing?

Anyone? Anyone?


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