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Sorry, kids, it's not all about you
Here's a quiz I've prepared for the first day of a freshman comp class I'll be teaching in two weeks at a university in the Financial District. After they've calmed down while reading my course requirements hand out ("Students sitting on either side of a student using an electronic device will be marked absent"-- thank you for that one, Mike Adams
), I announce the questions and tell them they will be responsible for the answers just after Halloween. Oh, and they need to provide a photo showing each of themselves at the pertinent locations. (The smart ones do group photos.)
1. Who first walked what is now Broadway? Why that route?
2. Why is Pearl St. called Pearl St.?
3. Does the shadow of the Bank of New York fall on the grave of its founder?
4. Where did the author of Bartleby the Scrivener work? Why did he a need job? What is the building's current function?
5. Who first turned on the lights in the Woolworth Building?
6. The name of the baseball team that plays in Shea Stadium is an abbreviation of what word?
7. Who won the 2006 World Series?
Okay, #6 and #7 don't go on the quiz. The point is to give them something to tuck away in the voluminous backs of their minds that will percolate through Halloween, the traditional Fall semester date by which most of the students have burned out being students.
The other point is, I take them on walks on nice days so that they can see things they've never seen before and understand with their bodies that NYC wasn't created over the summer. One student from a previous incarnation of my course once called it "Gym Class." The name stuck. Fact is, students are becoming less ambulatory by the semester. I've observed that the pain of walking on atrophying legs helps reinforce the lesson--that each week they must write a couple pages about something they haven't seen before.
All this in addition to weekly essays on things like hindsight, foresight and insight. Anybody who giggles over the name of the first of these topics gets marked absent.