March 15, 2005

A-hole Bingo

Ann Althouse relates an incident at the University of Wisconsin about a seminar square-off between a professor and a student. The professor (and several witnesses) claims the student was being disruptive in class. The student claims he's being persecuted for having a "belief system....inconsistent with" the professor's "conformist liberal views". The whole thing seems to have been turned over to a dean for sorting out.

As Ann correctly states, it's impossible to know from the article she cites what really happened. But based on my own experience, I've got a hunch the student was being a jerk. Ann asks some interesting questions regarding the accomodation of student ideological bents in the academic setting, but from what I've seen the problem is usually more one of ego than politics. Indeed, unlike Ann, I can easily conceive of a student who ideologically agrees with the professor and yet somehow is disruptive. There are just some students who don't know when the hell to shut up - this goes for both conservatives and liberals.

We used to play a game in law school called A-hole Bingo with just such a set of students in mind. Someone would generate Bingo cards with random student names on them. In class, if one of the students on your card volunteered an answer or observation, you marked off his or her name. In order to win the game, once you got the requisite up, down or diagonal row, you had to volunteer a comment to the professor yourself, somehow incorporating the word "bingo" into it.

The genesis of the game was a set of three especially talkative and combative students in the class known behind their backs as the Three Amigos. If you were lucky enough to get all three of their names on your card on a given day, you were almost sure to win. The Amigos were well known for going off on inane tangents, arguing petty points and just generally being, well, pains in the class. There was no common ideological bent among them - they were all simply abrasive loudmouths. In three years of close observation, I saw each of them get on the nerves of professors of all political stripe, from the staunchly conservative to the flaming liberal. I don't know that any of them ever had to speak to a dean, but all of them got the occasional rocket from the podium when they'd gone too far.

Posted by Robert at March 15, 2005 03:21 PM

Indeed, I learned that lesson the hard way. I was a conservative gadfly in a number of college classes back in the day, including one taught by an actual Marxist, beret-wearing liberation theologian. I sh*t you not. I was shocked when I got a C in the class.

I eventually learned it was simply shrewder to mock my professors outside of class to the amusement of all over a beer in the comfort of my dorm room. Easier on the GPA, too, I might add.

I learned the best way to deal with an idiot at the podium was to simple keep quiet and let them finish quickly and move on. God forbid you get the donkey to dig in; you'll never get through the material.

In the workaday world, I devised a "buzzword bingo" card for a corporate restructuring project I was involved in, which we distributed to our participants ahead of our presentations. This was to let them know that while we were going to get through all of our material, we didn't take ourselves too seriously. We gave out prizes. My boss at the time was a guarantee of success -- she was an old canny corporate player and spoke in nothing but buzzwords. If the participants had the sense to ask her questions, they'd win.

The big thing is to remember why you are all in the room together. One side is transferring a credential to another, who has properly learned to recite the proper incantations. It is simply wrong to expect meaning, value, beauty, justice, etc. out of an educational environment. I mean, I don't pick fights with my car mechanic, either. Why pick it with a college professor?

Posted by: The Colossus at March 15, 2005 03:37 PM

We did the same thing at Fort Benning when I was there for my officer basic course twenty years ago and called it: "Leadership Bingo." Ideology was not so much an issue as simply people that talked just to hear the sound of their own voice.

Posted by: LMC at March 15, 2005 05:02 PM

Robert! That kind of thing will get you expelled nowadays. Keeping lists of fellow students, tsk tsk tst. You are lucky you lived in a more accepting time.

Posted by: Misspent at March 15, 2005 07:40 PM

I recall an accounting class in the early eighties where we had a student who responded verbally to every point the teacher made. As the term went on, it became more and more annoying. Finally during one 50 minute class, I counted forty seven interjections by the verbose one, and announced the tally to a friend of mine as we filed out. As luck would have it, the verbose one overheard the score and got the point. We didn't hear another word for the rest of the term.

Posted by: KMR at March 15, 2005 08:43 PM


I spent a little time at Benning myself. I would do anything to keep awake during the lectures in Building Snore (as we called Building 4 in those days). I actually had more fun as an enlisted guy at Harmony Church than I did as a lieutenant. But that's some brunch they have at the O Club on Sundays. Wow. I still remember it fondly.

Posted by: The Colossus at March 16, 2005 07:56 AM

Liberation theology? Shudders My apologies, C.

Funny that you mention this, because it would explain the number of students using the word "bingo" in class these days. The card to use in my class would include the words "juxtapose" and "vis-a-vis".

Posted by: Steve the LB at March 16, 2005 09:00 AM

Isn't it good to know good games never die? We still play this till this day just to get the gunners although now it's called Turkey Bingo to incorporate an even more assanine word in to a comment in class.

One instance that sticks out is when one ring leader of the game, due to some inconsistencies with the score cards, stood up right in the middle of Torts and said "Alright everybody-new game, no points." I'm sure the Prof. knew what he was referring to but still-ballsy to say the least.

Posted by: Wittysexkitten at March 16, 2005 09:09 PM

Ever notice it is a "staunch" conservative and a "flaming" liberal? I wonder which side of the isle coined the two phrases...

Posted by: Old friend of the LBs at March 24, 2005 06:15 PM
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