We No Speak Americano: Don't speak
A wee anecdote from the University of Edinburgh: a pupil kept interrupting the lecturer with questions, kept providing answers that weren’t required, kept offering opinions that weren’t asked for. After twenty minutes of this incessant disruption the lecturer told the pupil that if he dared open his mouth again that term, he would personally make sure that he was dropped from the course.
Such was the inspiration for No Doubt’s 1996 hit-single‘Don’t Speak’. Clearly Gwen Stefani had had a bad foreign exchange experience.
But this is how we do things in the UK. We go to class. We sit down. We shut up. We let the lecturer do their thing. When they ask at the end if we have any questions (and boy do we have questions: “What on earth were you going on about for the past fifty minutes?”) no one puts up their hand. If anyone dares raise a manus, they must deal with the fury of twenty ravenous students who just want to get to lunch.
My father, the ultimate Victorian daddy, believed that his children should neither be seen nor heard. Consequently he had a staircase installed for the sole use of his offspring to separate us from the adults, lest we affect them with our immaturity.
I’m just kidding.
So imagine my surprise when I walked into class at the beginning of term, only to be handed a massive label with my name on it in big bold letters. What was the purpose of this device? Oh, to let the professor know my name when I spoke out in class.
Oh. You weren’t kidding.
I watched in increasing horror as the lecturer, instead of looking at a script on a podium, looked directly into the students’ eyes and dared engage us in conversation, as though what we thought actually mattered. I kept my head down.
And then came that awful moment where you scratch your face, and the teacher thinks that you put up your arm. “Sophie? What’s your view on the reconciliation of classical chaos with the S-matrix in quantum field theory and conserved CPT?”
I went into panic mode. Here’s why:
- Ok, so I didn’t do the reading. I watched that terrible movie SATC 2 last night. Again.
- And I didn’t hear the question you just asked. I was too busy looking at the cute guy across the room. Mmm.
- Finally: How the HELL do you know my name?
Oh, that’s right. It’s on my name label. Damn it.
I think my answer was something like “Squerble?”
So here’s how I feel about my classes at Dartmouth: they’re terrifying. Petrifying. But boring? Never. I’ve never been more awake in my life. I’ve learnt to speak out in lectures now – my heart feels like it’s going to give out every time I do, but it doesn’t beat the feeling of satisfaction that I get from having contributed to something. And I love being the teacher’s pet.
Some other things I’ve learnt: 1) Apparently the ‘Dartmouth Seven’ are areas of great visual beauty in the campus area. If you don’t know where they are, ask President Kim for a personal tour. 2) If you go to a cafe, hand over your Dartmouth I.D. and say the letters ‘D’, ‘B’, and ‘A’, you get free food.