I recognize that discussion is a really important, democratic aspect of our society. There are things that we simply need to talk about, be made aware of, and listen to. I get that. The news is a perfect example. People tell us the news so that we know what’s happening outside of the bubble of our lives – or you follow the Globe on Twitter, same diff – and then you talk about it with your friends: “just how adorable is Kate Middleton’s new puppy?” “Super adorable!” and etc. Or small University classes – another great example. Sure you run into some “interesting” opinions (like Isaac from my Women in Lit class, who I’m pretty sure was a neo-Nazi and claimed that feminists and lesbians were ruining the Family) but that’s what small classes are for. Not neo-Nazis, discussion. It’s a small, non-threatening environment where you can talk about really important issues, and debate the Isaacs into the ground. It’s important that people can have their voices heard. Freedom of speech is fundamental in North America, and we just take it for granted.
…So much so, that there are certain people that … over-exercise (shall we say) that right. Certain people that by making their voices heard incur the wrath of many and run the danger of dramatically shortening their life-span. I am of course talking about that annoying person that constantly speaks out in class.
The person that hops up and down in their seat waving their hand in a giant lecture theatre, the person who answers every rhetorical question the prof poses. The person who thinks other people give a monkey’s bum what they’re talking about. Well, over-eager keener, let me assure you: we do not. You all know this person. Every class, conference, workshop, ever, has one of these people that likes to hear the sound of their voice and is excessively gratified when others agree with them.
I had a guy just like this in MULTIPLE of my university English classes, and later found out that both Hilary, and my friend Dave also had the misfortune to count him as a classmate. Lord was he annoying! He was just so incredibly long-winded, and took every opportunity possible to spout off his own personal opinions. What he could have said in three words, he found, by any means or devices humanly possible, to draw out each and every sentence, syllable, iamb, so that his points began to ramble, infused with literary jargon and odd phrases from various theorists, until they had lost all meaning, and each and every student had lost all focus – turning their attention to other more fascinating things, like watching the clock or doodling. (Much like that, only worse, so very worse, people. He used words I’ve never even heard before, and I’m really nerdy. I think he must have made them up.) Two of the profs dealt with him in a professional manner, under great duress. But then there was this one Shakespeare prof who would listen patiently enough, look at him, and say “no,” and then move on with his lecture. Because here’s the other thing: this over-eager keener is usually wrong. They like to sound bright, but often the opinions they express are completely obvious or way off base. It just makes them even more tiresome.
I think we can all learn a lot from ye olde Shakespeare prof. Stop encouraging these people! I think it’s safe to say that they’re never going to go away, but I would like to stop listening to inane opinions at every turn. So professors, teachers, conference leaders! Stop encouraging questions from participants, and for the love of lanta, don’t ask any yourself. There’s no room for discussion in a classroom with over-eager keeners.