Everyone wants heaven on Earth. It would be nice if people simply lent their abilities to society in accordance with the needs of others. Nicer still if people satisfied their needs mindful of others’ ability to accommodate them. But things simply don’t work out that way. Human nature won’t allow it.
For many years I’ve used my classroom to teach students about more than just our system of justice, law and order. I’ve used it to teach important life lessons which, if properly understood and applied, will spare my students no small measure of discomfort in life. This semester I decided to teach them a lesson about human nature.
I wanted to create a little utopia for the 99 students taking my three classes. So I kept the rules very simple and explained why we must have them and how they work to the benefit of our little community.
First, I explained the need to arrive in class on time. I appealed to reason and explained how tardiness reflects poorly upon them. But I kept the emphasis on the collective. I explained that no one person has a right to barge into class and work his way past the podium and down the row to his seat – all the while tripping over book bags and catching his breath while the class focused its attention on his lateness, not the lecture.
And I made it very easy for everyone to follow the rule. I placed a couple of desks in the hall outside the class and told students they could sit there if they arrived late. There would be no need to barge in the classroom late. The door would remain open so the late student could hear the lecture and take notes. Any lingering questions could be answered after class.
Next, I explained the need to come to class without any electronic devices that make strange noises. I appealed to reason and explained that a student looks very foolish when his cell phone goes off in class. But I kept the emphasis on the collective. I explained that ringing cell phones disrupt the concentration of professors and students alike. The disruptions have become such a regular occurrence that the learning environment has suffered appreciably.
And I made it easy for students to follow the rule – even those who sincerely believe they cannot live without a cell phone. The rule states that I must never see or hear a cell phone during the lecture. But those addicted to their cell phones – and, hence, unable to leave them home - could simply shut them off and hide them in their backpacks. I would never know the difference.