Why My Uniform Doesn’t Include Weapons


That’s the percentage of my 101 students (mostly “knobs” — i.e., freshmen) who followed the explicit written and oral instructions on how to turn in their papers to me today.

Three. Point. Two.

The other 96.8% just lost a full letter grade.

Plus, in my second 101 section this morning, a full 40% had lost or forgotten the most important paper in the class. And 20% did not have their books in hand.

The next time I’m asked why I don’t carry a pistol, I shall point to this day.


  1. Yeah. A handgun would be bad in that case.

  2. But on a plus note 3.2% can follow instructions. That’s better then only 1%. Or you can look at it the way one of my professors did. First day he would say:

    “All you undergrads are dumb. Stupid kids. You are here now because you need to be taught, because you know nothing. I don’t have high expectations of any of you because I know you will ALL let me down. Oh, and there will be a test on Thursday…don’t screw it up.”

    Same speech to every class. For some reason it worked, people did not forget stuff for his class. Still the best professor I ever had.

  3. That’s harsh, Kate. Not a bad idea, though…

  4. This reminds me, with a sad, bemused chuckle, of the time in your Tolkien course when a quiz included the simple question, “What is your professor’s name?” — and not everyone knew the correct answer.

    . . .Which calls back a further memory of when a student blurted the answer to a quiz out-loud to the whole room. Some depressingly good times.

    Incidentally, how did all the Tolkien students fair in terms of following your explicitly laid out instructions on how, where, and when to turn in the term papers; may I grant myself some Rochester pride?

  5. Grant yourself that pride, Ben. I suspect the numbers were quite reversed in Rochester, truth be told.

    And thanks for the memory recalls of that fun course. Why, I wonder, do you consider those good times “depressingly” so?

    Oh, and I’d forgotten about that confused young girl shouting out the quiz answer. I can’t recall her name — alas, there were so many of you! — but I can picture her face, especially as it reddened in the cathartic laughter that followed.

  6. Quite good times indeed — only depressingly so in that I felt a bit bemusedly pained that someone could possibly be taking a course and not know the professor’s name.

    A likewise reaction, mixed with some sympathetic pity, for the poor girl who blurted out the answer. I can’t imagine the embarrassment I would have felt had I done such a thing.

    Those are some good memories, but they certainly don’t overshadow the genuine enjoyment some of my friends and I got out of your lectures.

  7. Michael,
    Where were you teaching when you wrote this post?

    Hope it was not the Citadel as it is imperative that those students have the ability to focus and pay attention to the details or lives could be lost.

    I served with many great soldiers who graduated from the Citadel and if you had the privilege of teaching them, I just wanted to say “Thanks”.

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    • Alas, I’m afraid this was at The Citadel (where I still work). It was disappointing to say the least, and it has not been an isolated, anomalous statistic in my experience. On the plus side, these were first-year students fresh out of high school. One hopes that by the time they leave here they have been suitably corrected of this kind of problem.

      It takes time, though. There’s too much coddling in high school that we have to undo.

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