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- “Is it compulsory?” (#166)
The TEACHER has just explained the details of an assignment to the entire class. A STUDENT raises his hand.
TEACHER: [to the student] Yes, do you have a doubt relating to what I just said?
STUDENT: As it happens, indeed I do miss. Is this project compulsory?
TEACHER: Yes, it is compulsory for all to do.
[Short uncomfortable pause in dialogue.]
(the same) STUDENT: All right, if you don’t mind miss, I’d like to take a step back and question that.
TEACHER: What do you mean? Could we discuss this later—you’re wasting everyone’s time.
STUDENT: I’m afraid we shouldn’t do this later. I have a genuine doubt that I guarantee appeals to the whole class. When you say it is compulsory, what do you mean by that?
TEACHER: It just means you have to do it—no questions asked.
STUDENT: And why is that?
TEACHER: Because it’s compulsory. The authorities demand of it, you just have to do it. No choice.
STUDENT: No choice, huh? What if I don’t do it?
TEACHER: Then you’ll be in trouble. Your parents will be called and will have to face the Principal.
STUDENT: So? Does that in any apparent way imply I have no choice in this matter?
TEACHER: It usually does.
STUDENT: But wh-
TEACHER: OK stop. You’re being completely unreasonable. We still need to complete the syllabus for next month’s important examinations. There’s no time for this. (to everyone) I hope the instructions for this assignment are clear. You are all supposed to hand in your work by the end of the week.
(the same) STUDENT: “completely unreasonable”? Really? I’m the one being unreasonable here? I thought it followed that this whole concept of compulsion is an existing proof of unreasonability. An easy means to make or not make students do something, disallowing it to be criticized and making them believe you are some sacred entity always spitting out the unquestionable, holiest, infallible piece of advice. Really, what the heck does compulsory even mean? And why do you get that anti-rational, coercive, mind-inhibiting power?