Whoever first said to think before you speak evidently never took a course that graded their participation. Before I came to Cornell, I dreamed of college classrooms with endless conversation. Now, in my final semester, my learning usually happens when I’m silent — truncated by empty comments born from the hollow frames of other empty comments.
A word salad of unprofound buzzwords emerges when an unprovocative reading meets a room of seasoned skimmers who yearn for an A. Participation may count for 25 percent or more of a final grade, leading to a performance to cushion it. Participation for the sake of participation wastes tuition dollars, time and a professor’s expertise. We must swap our limited definition of participation for one that rewards silence, encourages listening and steers us to material that cues discussion on subjects worthy of contention.