As an elder statesman, the Curmudgeonly Professor will review today the favorite questions that students ask so that you will be prepared to cope with them the first day you stand before a section of 400 eager, aspiring, yakking, inattentive, bored, and, in some cases, combative, students. Remember at the start that these young men and women are the future of our country no matter how they may appear today and no matter what questions they may ask.
The most popular all-time question students like to ask is, "Will it be on the test?" This question usually pops up from people like Molly in the back row in the middle of a detailed hour-long exposition on why marginal costs must equal marginal revenues if the firm is to maximize profits or minimize losses. After displaying my professorial skills with multi-colored overhead transparencies and numerous graphs, a hand goes up in the back row, probably Molly. Question: "Will this be on the test?" I try to collect my wits and keep my patience for the 3,289th time after hearing this very same question in all of it's permutations and combinations. What I would like to say is, "Well, maybe it will be and maybe it won't be. You have read three chapters in a 2,000 page textbook on this topic, and I have spent two lecture hours explaining it just because we needed some way to kill time. I obviously was just kidding you when I said in my ten-page syllabus, in which I thought I had made every necessary threat and really, really, laid down the law and the class rules, that you would be held accountable for all lecture material and all assigned readings. But I didn't really mean it. I don't want to torture your still-maturing brains with such pedantic and difficult-to-understand material as theories and charts and graphs."
But, if I did so, I know I would run the risk of increasing the number of students who would write on their course evaluation that "The Curmudgeonly Professor does not speak respectfully to students. He talks nasty to us and makes us feel bad. He is undoubtedly the worst teacher I have ever had since kindergarten. Besides that I hate economics to begin with and there is no reason I should have to take it. I have always gotten straight A's until you gave me a D minus on the midterm which was unfair, unfair, unfair. I am going to write a letter to the President of the University and the Dean and you'll see what will happen to you. Besides that my daddy just made a major financial contribution to the athletic department."
Well, that information is just for starters. After we disposed with the first question about what will be on the test, another hand goes up in the back row: "Do we have to know that?" As the astute reader will have noticed, this question is variant (A) of the first question which has many variations, all meant to exasperate the Professor and get him to give a stupid answer like, "Of course not, dear boy, you don't have to know anything; in fact you can graduate from here with a degree and not remember 10% of what was crammed down your throat in the six years it took you to graduate." But if I succumbed to the temptation to be sarcastic, then I would have a riot on my hands because every student would line up outside my door yelling at me "You said we didn't have to know that, and then you put it on the test."
This tutorial on student questions is obviously just a beginning installment on that topic, as this post has already exceeded its intended length. We will continue down the road at some future time. If you have any questions, please don't ask them. I've heard them all before. And my answer will still be the same: "Yes".
Dwight, I have to add the next most irritating comment when a student
has missed the class to catch up on their sleep, and they ask "Did I
miss anything?" or one level up, "Did we do anything important
You are right on. I have been there and done that.
I suppose I should be comforted to know that students are consistent,
from 9 to 19. I think that I get those same questions from my fourth
graders on a regular basis, along with the simplified version, "Do we
have to do that?"
Commenter name: Laura Tanner