For every classroom, there is a pretentious question-asker, a self-important show-off. As a classics major who has taken many literature-based classes where discussion is encouraged, I have had to sit through many a seminar with card-carrying Jane Austen enthusiasts who spoon their 11 cats each night while I silently stare at them in indignation.
These are the students who just have to make a final, vain point one minute before the discussion ends, and their moves toward this are usually honored by the professor who is probably just trying to be polite.
While your pathetic attempts at forming syntactically complicated sentences with a liberal helping of tri-syllabic words that contextually don’t make very much sense are amusing, if you don’t have anything substantial to say, just leave the teaching up to the professor. Just because you own a Moleskine does not mean that you’re a Pulitzer-winning novelist.
But there is also the infamous teller of tales. Each class always has a student who believes a story about one’s emo phase in middle school is a valid comparison to Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot.” Please share more of these anecdotes — you are not wasting class time at all.
I know a lot of words. I can do writing real good. But seriously, Greek and Latin courses have immensely expanded my vocabulary and etymological knowledge. At one point, I found myself always answering questions about the meaning of words in a particular literature class. Once the impulse to watch “Downton Abbey” came upon me, however, I did some introspection and decided that this was not the kind of person I wanted to be. No one likes a know-it-all, so I chose to stop talking in class unless I had something that was well thought-out and beneficial to the discussion.
Having made this change, I’m a much better listener. I can focus more in class if I subdue my internal thoughts, and I’m even a bit more patient. I realize it’s important to be an independent thinker, but I think people who interrupt a conversation at every chance are verbally incontinent (word vomit!).
I’d like to clarify that, again, not all people who talk in class are intrinsically evil (Hobbes reference). I just take issue with the delusional ones who think everyone else, professor included, is attentively absorbing each rehearsed, formulated word. Please stop making the Millennial Generation look even worse by thinking that you’re special, because you’re cosmically mediocre.
Also, raising your voice to appear agitated does not impress anyone, especially if it’s 9 a.m. and I’m hungover. I didn’t know that political t-shirts and eco-friendly backpacks automatically make someone a qualified expert on everything liberal. But go on, enlighten me.
If someone really wants to be an independent thinker, do exactly that: listen to what other people are saying, internalize it and then develop your own conclusion. Instead of ranting in class, think about that rant for a while until it’s more refined and convincing. Maybe, just maybe, this method will produce a coherent argument instead of causing you to blurt random things out in class like entropy.
Or perhaps do what I did and write a column with The Daily Free Press. It’s a wonderful channel for opinions, but people can physically put it down if they don’t feel like reading on (imagine that?), and then continue onto the crossword puzzle.
Now, since I’m at liberty and not wasting anyone’s time, I’m going to share a brief anecdote of my own.
Over the summer when I was an England, I helped plan a conference on Lord Byron. It was thrilling to learn so much about an important British poet who loved the ancient world more than Socrates, so I found the lectures and après-conference drinking sessions to be a lot of fun.
I was at a pub with other conference members who were discussing Byron and politics. One person in the conversation went on a particularly pseudo-sophisticated rant about Byron and Greece, and coincidentally, my inhibitions were a bit lowered due to pinot grigio. That being said, I gave no cares about intensely, death-ray staring this person down, as I didn’t really think anyone would notice. However, the person sitting next to me tapped me on the thigh and whispered that I looked like I wanted to kill someone. I was just especially upset that these people exist outside of the Boston University bubble.
Before ending, I’d like to leave you with this: I consider myself to be an independent, dynamic thinker who prefers to do a bit of research before embarrassing myself. There is obviously no problem with speaking out in class, but it’s also important to be considerate and remember that each un-thoughtful comment runs the risk of invalidating the truly thoughtful ones. As soon as you close your mouth and open your ears, people will listen when you do make a point. I promise.
Sydney L. Shea is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at email@example.com.