Monday, October 09, 2006

There is hope yet

There is this student in my class, thin, short, extremely pale, slightly protruding front teeth, and has the kind of hair cut that is typical of nine year old HK boys (think toilet brush). He always wears a thin polyester shirt that seems to have gone through a million washes.

I remember him from one of my classes last year. He speaks in a slow, seemingly thoughtful manner. Other students tend to giggle when he speaks, for no apparent reason.

Anyway, in today's seminar, towards the end of the class, I tried to wrap up the various points and positions, and I asked if anyone had anything to add. And he said, slowly:

I was looking at the topic you set for this week, and I thought, why did you set us this topic? Why did you make us think through this, step by step? What were you trying to do? It seemed so pointless... So, I thought, what was going on in your mind when you set these questions? I try to get inside your head... I try to think what was on your mind...

The class laughed, nervously. To which he was completely oblivious. He carried on:

I think you are trying to make us realise that equality or any other such social justice related concepts are subjective, and it is all about self-interest, in the end.

I nodded. Encouragingly. I could feel my pupils dilating.

Maybe the discussion about social justice is really about values, and politics, not objective truths, and you are trying to make us realise this by setting us these questions, which seem pointless at first, but are not really.

More nervous giggling from the class. They have no idea what he was saying. Me, I wanted to give him a standing ovation. I wanted to throw rose petals at him.

You know, moments like these are few and far between. Most of my students are extremely self-conscious about voicing their own opinions. They think very little of their own views, in case it is WRONG, you see. It takes a lot of hard work to try to get these stupid ideas out of their heads.

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