A recent national survey found that 58.5% of college students are reluctant to discuss at least one of the following hot-button topics in class: race, gender, politics, religion, and sexual orientation (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22nd online).
58.5% may seem high, but it pales in comparison to 97%, which is the percentage of students who absolutely refuse to talk in class about any of the following: differential calculus, amoebic dysentery, the Code of Hammurabi, the Oxford comma, and Gallium, the 31st element in the Periodic Table.
Consider the case of Terrance Flish, a sophomore at Florida State University. He claims that differential calculus is his personal “trauma trigger.” “Last week my Math professor called on me to explain the difference between differential calculus and integral calculus. I froze, and then totally lost bowel control right in front of everyone. The professor made fun of me and joked that my large intestine had emptied so completely that I should go to Walgreens for a free colonoscopy. I was mortified. Later, I was even more mortified when I discovered that Walgreens doesn’t perform colonoscopies.”
At Muhlenberg College, an English professor asked Melanie Nulf-Petras what her opinion was of the Oxford comma. “I passed out,” she reports. “Now I have nightmares nearly every night about writing sentences that contain lists, and the medication I’m taking for the dreams is causing my eyebrows to grow down the sides of my cheeks. My life is beyond horrible.”
An ROTC instructor at Sam Houston State University asked freshman Matthew Capsaicin to recite Law 110 from the Code of Hammurabi. As Capsaicin recounts the incident, “I panicked and said, ‘Thou shalt not wear white after Labor Day’. [The correct answer: ‘If a sister of god opens a tavern, or enters a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death’.] The instructor yelled ‘WRONG!’ and proceeded to pull a pistol from his pants pocket and shoot me twice in the left leg, right below the knee. Two weeks later I was cut from the varsity basketball team and lost my athletic scholarship. My parents were not happy.”
Yes, college students are afraid to talk in class.
And it looks like they should be.