This story appears as part of the Daily Nexus’ 2007 April Fools’ issue.
People always ask me, “Arthur, how do you do it? How do you come up with so many questions to ask the professor during class?” And I always tell them, “I don’t know, man. I guess I’m just a genius.”
For those of you who haven’t met me yet, I’m the guy in your friend’s philosophy class who sits in the front row and takes notes on a laptop. I average about 25 questions per class. I guess you could say I get a pretty good workout considering the fact that I have to raise my arm every two minutes, but I digress. Let’s get back to the question: How do I do it?
Well, I suppose from a young age I have always been extremely inquisitive. I look at things and ask the tough questions like, “Why are there 100 cents in a dollar?” or “What if everybody in the world decided to stop having children?” or “If I give the cashier an extra three cents will I get back a whole dollar?” It’s just my nature.
So I sit there in class, listening to the teacher lecture and occasionally I’ll wonder: Am I getting the whole story? Are there other ways the professor’s words can be paraphrased? Should I consider any extreme hypothetical situations? After all, it is my education we’re talking about and I know other students benefit from my queries.
In fact, I can recall an instance in which the professor was discussing an ethical dilemma where you had to risk your life to save the life of an infant and I immediately considered a factor that he had omitted. I diligently raised my hand and asked what needed to be asked: “What if you don’t like babies?” I could tell right away that the class was deeply affected and enlightened by my observation. An immense silence set over the crowd and then one student began clapping slowly. Usually the accomplishment of creating a thought-provoking question is rewarding enough for me, but the applause was certainly appreciated.
Occasionally, I will also notice that some portions of the professor’s lecture can benefit from some of my personal life experiences. If the professor is talking about Plato’s Republic, then I feel it is both important and relevant to mention the time my uncle Bob got skunked at a family picnic because it is funny and true.
Nevertheless, I do have my detractors. Some people might say that I am wasting everyone else’s time or that I am merely interrupting the professor, but I firmly believe that I am bringing wisdom to the table here. When it comes to academia, we need to hear every possible viewpoint. Nothing is irrelevant. The professor may have a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford, but that doesn’t mean we should take everything he says at face value. Everything needs some context and that’s what I give. My questions offer alternate perspectives and let students consider other possibilities such as if you are given $100 million, should you give some of it to charity or build a really cool rocket ship instead? Many people don’t even consider the second option, but what if I love rocket ships more than poor people?
After reading this, I am sure there are some of you who are now interested in pursuing my same craft. It takes some ingenuity, but anyone with enough patience and dedication to their education can do it. Bring a laptop to class and sit in the front row, preferably near your professor’s podium. If you don’t know what to ask and your classroom has wireless Internet, you can always type in keywords from the professor’s lecture into a search engine to get some questions. It will take some time to get used to speaking up so much, especially in a packed Campbell Hall, but you can practice by asking questions you already know the answers to. Even an expert like myself will engage in this practice just so that I can keep my question-asking skills sharp. If you need any more help, feel free to join me in a class. I have posted my course schedule on my LiveJournal for all interested parties.