Gluttony and Self-Knowledge

A link from Martin Kramer led me to two articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education by the pseudonymous ‘Thomas H. Benton’, The 7 Deadly Sins of Students and The 7 Deadly Sins of Professors. Here’s a bit from the first:

Gluttony: It hardly needs saying that most colleges struggle to control alcohol consumption by students and the embarrassing incidents and tragedies that result from it. But there are other manifestations of gluttony these days. For example, when did it become acceptable for students to eat and drink in class as if they were sitting in a cafeteria? Nowadays, I occasionally encounter a student who thinks it’s OK to consume a large, messy, and odorous meal in class. I once saw a student eat an entire rotisserie chicken, a tub of mashed potatoes with gravy, several biscuits, and an enormous soft drink during the first 10 minutes of a lecture. I felt like a jester in the court of Henry VIII. It seems hard these days to find a student in class whose mouth is not stuffed with food. Such students will often say that they have no other time to eat, but previous generations — who were no less busy — managed to consume small snacks between classes. That is why colleges have vending machines.

I don’t know when it became acceptable, but eating in class was not unheard of even thirty years ago. That was when I took a class on Aristotle’s Ethics at the supposedly-ascetic University of Chicago. One day, as we were discussing a chapter on one of the Greek virtues, we watched the plumpest student in the class scarf down three hot dogs and a 20-ounce soda in under 10 minutes, while doing most of the talking. He had some difficulty making himself understood, since his mouth was full the whole time. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who had to stifle the urge to say “what the Heck do you know about sophrosyne, you disgusting pig?”

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One Response to Gluttony and Self-Knowledge

  1. Alfred M. Kriman says:

    A former colleague of mine, known also to Curculio, was teaching a large general-survey course for freshmen about ten years ago, and up a number of rows in the amphitheater, a couple of his students were making out, oblivious to the learning experience on offer below.

    This is not the sort of classroom occurrence that I, for one, had ever thought about and planned for in advance. Caught thus unprepared, my friend ignored the couple. Later he regretted lacking the presence of mind, or whatever was lacking, to call the
    students out. Possibly the UC professor in that Arist. Ethics class was simply caught off guard. I was caught off guard when a student read the student newspaper in my class about six years ago. (I forbade it at the next lecture, when he tried it again.)

    I am reminded of my old junior-high geometry teacher’s oft-repeated plea: “You don’t have to listen, but please shut up!”

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