Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Students and Teachers

Geitner Simmons reports on complaints by students at a state university:
The students claimed they were entitled to challenge the professor because they were paying for the course, hence they supposedly had standing to direct how it should be taught. Specifically, the students complained that they ought to be allowed to take multiple-choice tests rather than essay exams. Many of them also refused to study a series of maps on which the instructor had marked various items that would later be the focus of a test; too boring, they said.
Keith Burgess-Jackson's essay You Are Not My Customer is a devastating critique of this mistaken notion that students are customers and like customers are "always right".

None of this is new, of course. In his account of the martyrdom of St. Cassian of Imola, Prudentius wrote (Peristephanon 9.27-28, tr. E.K. Rand):
For teachers ever are a bitter pill
To college youth, nor any serious course
Is ever sweet to infants.

doctor amarus enim discenti semper ephebo
  nec dulcis ulli disciplina infantiae est.
Cassian was stabbed to death by the pens of his pupils.

Other ancient worthies met the same fate. One of these was the priest Marcus of Arethusa, whose death was described by Gregory Nazianzen in his first invective against the emperor Julian = Oration 4.89 (tr. C.W. King):
He was tossed in the air from one set of school-boys to another, who caught that noble body on the points of their writing-styles, and made a game out of a tragedy.
Evagrius Scholasticus, in his Ecclesiastical History 3.10 (tr. E. Walford), wrote:
Next to Peter, Stephen succeeds to the see of Antioch, whom the sons of the Antiochenes dispatched with reeds sharpened like lances, as is recorded by John the Rhetorician.
Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend, tr. William Caxton) told a similar story about St. Felix:
Felix was surnamed Inpincis, and is said of the place where he resteth, or of the pointelles of greffes. A greffe is properly called a pointel to write in tables of wax, by which he suffered death. And some say that he was a schoolmaster and taught children, and was to them much rigorous. After he was known of the paynims, and because he confessed plainly that he was christian and believed in Jesu Christ he was delivered to be tormented into the hands of the children his scholars, whom he had taught and learned, which scholars slew him with their pointelles, pricks, and greffes.
An illustration from Cod. Pal. germ. 144 shows the gruesome death of St. Felix.

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