Friday, August 26, 2011

Intern Quiz

The Prindle Institute for Ethics has sixteen absolutely wonderful student interns who work here throughout the year: organizing events, assisting with publicity and promotion, sitting at the front receptionist desk, giving tours of the facility, and more. In order to play their role as receptionist/tour guide, I found out at the intern meeting last week, the interns are required to take a quiz.

"Ooh!" I thought. I love taking quizzes! Even though this wasn't required of me as a mere visiting professor, I got busy studying.

But then eagerness became replaced with agitation. What if I failed the quiz (meaning, what if I didn't have a perfect paper, better than everybody else's paper)? What if I was WRONG about one of the answers? What if I was humiliated, humbled, SHOWN UP by others? It struck me how scary it is to be someone who has to take quizzes and tests and to write papers for grades, how brave you have to be to be a student.

I took the quiz just now. It was HARD. Because I had finished cramming for it seconds before I took it, I did pretty well. I knew the name of the architectural firm that designed our gorgeous building: Lake-Flato. I knew the material for the gleaming polished floors: fly ash concrete. I knew the name of the first director of the Prindle: former DePauw president Bob Bottoms. I could name recent and upcoming events: a panel discussion on the use and abuse of Adderall on college campuses, a conference on ethical issues involving video gaming.

I did get some answers wrong. I didn't know the name of the generous donors who fund the intern program (now I do: the Hillmans); I didn't know the location for the locally quarried limestone (now I do: Bedford, Indiana). In one case, I argued shamelessly for points that were going to be subtracted from a barely adequate answer. And then I begged my grader, our assistant director, to give me a gold star on my paper, which she did.

I love looking at the gold star. I'm looking at it right now.

I'm not sure I love remembering how hard and scary it is to submit myself to evaluation and judgment of this kind by others. I guess it's good to remember this periodically. Good - but hard and scary, too.

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