Dream of: 01 June 1998 "Rousseau And Plato"

I was sitting in the back of a classroom containing 30-40 students (most probably in their mid 20s). A woman (probably in her mid 30s) was seated at a desk in front of the class, the professor. This was the second time I had been to this class. The first class had merely been a lecture concerning a book which we were reading. I expected that this class would be more of the same monotony, and I was prepared to simply sit back and listen.

But as the class rolled along, students began speaking up and making detailed comments about the book. First one student would speak, then another. Their comments were surprisingly erudite. One student mentioned the name of a couple of philosophers, and then the next student brought up the name of the French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I had the impression that the students were trying to make what they said sound as impressive as possible. But at the same time, the students actually did seem to know what they were talking about.

For myself, I was having a difficult time following what was being said. I looked at my book, an old hardbound beaten-up copy, and opened it to the pages we were supposed to have read. I had actually read the assignment, but now I realized I couldn't remember well exactly what I had read. I had simply read perfunctorily, without concentrating on learning anything. I thought if the teacher called on me to make a comment, I probably wouldn't even know what to say. But it didn't appear that the teacher was calling on anyone. It looked as if all the students who were talking were simply volunteering to speak.

Finally the discussion somewhat deteriorated when a black fellow and a white fellow began arguing about the appearance of the buildings in downtown Kansas City. I didn't know what Kansas City had to do with anything. When the black fellow sardonically said that he conceded the point to the white fellow, the argument ended.

The teacher announced that the class had come to an end. She said she would rate the class as "fifty-fifty." What she meant was that she was pleased with the way the class had gone, but thought it could still be much better. She indicated that most of the students who had spoken had each talked for approximately the same length of time. But she didn't think that such time limits were good. She thought a student should talk as long as he or she wanted, even if that meant talking longer than the other students.

I stood up and walked out into the hall toward my locker. I felt uncertain of myself and how I was going to fit into this class. Some of the students, especially the ones who had brought up the names of the philosophers, seemed to be very intelligent. I was uncertain I would be able to compete. I had read a little of Plato and thought maybe I could work him into my speech next time. But I was uncertain I would be able to do that.

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