Did you ever take George "Mac" McCarthy's sociology course, "Social Dreamers"? Then you probably remember Heinrich Scheisskopf, the Nazi veteran (who bore a strange resemblance to the professor), spewing hateful but intellectually adept arguments that the class had trouble dismissing. What about introductory French with Mary Jane Cowles? You may have been the student who measured out the flour, in grams, for the day-one crepe spectacular: a first taste of Gallic splendor.
Kenyon professors bring a good deal of imagination to the art of teaching. But some classroom moments are particularly dramatic. They're stunts of a sort, designed to startle--or provoke, or amuse, or create some fun--but crafted, as well, with a pedagogical agenda. Here are a few classic Kenyon classroom moments, evoked in image and word.
The commands for students shaping a medieval cathedral on the lawns of Kenyon include "Stand up straight" and "Pretend you're a wall."
"We all fall down" is not an option.
The catchy lyrics to "Dry Bones" make it easy for children to get a feel for the body's skeletal system. With the leg bone connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone connected to the . . . well, you get the idea.
All good teachers want to give their students something to reflect upon. Once a semester, English professor Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky takes that mandate more literally than most. On the day his Shakespeare class will be analyzing the deposition scene in Richard II, he extracts a hand mirror from the boxful stashed in his office and brings it with him to class. It won't be coming back.
In a typical beginning French course, the first day might involve introductions. " Bonjour, je m'appelle Kate." "Enchanté. Je m'appelle Jim."
It's gentle immersion--the students stick a toe in.That's not how Mary Jane Cowles handles day one.
Helping students make sense of a post-Holocaust world sometimes requires a theatrical touch, which is delivered by George "Mac" McCarthy with an existential lightning bolt.
Beer for credit? Not exactly. It's biochemistry. Water chemistry. Enzymes. Oxidation. Malting. Mashing. Fermentation. In other words: well, beer.
From the darkness, glowing bones emerge. Cue the music, and suddenly the three gangly, glow-in-the-dark skeletons are dancing, chanting, "Save the bones for Henry Jones, 'cause Henry don't eat no meat!"