Tabula Rasa, Squared

As Charles Dickens recently observed, it is the “worst of times” in higher education.  College classrooms have become battlegrounds, belittled by conservatives as enclaves of leftist indoctrination and scorned by liberals as political minefields where free speech is threatened even as microaggressions and traumatizing triggers run rampant.  

Is there any way out of this mess?

Florida State University thinks so.

Beginning in the fall of 2023, FSU’s Sociology Department will offer Void 101, a three-credit, Pass-Fail, content-free elective course. 

According to Department Chair Clyde Fliff, “nothing will happen in Void 101.  This in-person course will meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 am to 10:45 am, but no one will say anything during that time.  Students will sit silently for the entire period, as will the instructor.  This will eliminate the possibility of problematic interactions taking place.  Students who refrain from speaking for the entire semester will receive a final grade of Pass.

“The goal of Void 101 is to cleanse students’ minds of troubling, as well as untroubling, thoughts.  The only required text is a blank Moleskine diary.  If a student has a cognition at any point during a class session, he or she will write that thought down in the diary, tear out the page, and burn it after leaving the room.  In Void 101, an educated mind is one that is clear and free of debris, like a cloudless sky on a summer’s day in Tallahassee.  By the end of the course, high-achieving students should have nothing to write about in their diaries. 

“For far too long — indeed, centuries — colleges and universities have been obsessed with trying to fill students’ heads with content in the form of information, ideas, and values.  This needs to stop.  The time has come to empty those precious heads and take higher education to the next level.”

Students will not be allowed to visit the bathroom during meetings of Void 101, since doing so could serve as a trigger for those who might have been bedwetters as children.  

Plans are under way to introduce Void 102 (Advanced Void) in the spring of 2024.  In Void 102 total silence will still be observed in the classroom, but thinking about Division I college football will be encouraged.