Wednesday, March 18, 2009


In my first year of college, I started Columbia's “Contemporary Civilization” (CC) course sequence. This was two years of reading source documents important to the development of Western Civilization, thinking and talking about them. Class discussions tended to be pretty bleak, especially when no one could bear to do the assigned readings. One Wednesday morning, hardly anyone was willing to answer the professor's questions. Finally he just looked at all thirty of us and said, “Gentlemen, how many of you did the reading for today?”

Three quarters of us raised our hands. He looked at us incredulously and said, “Honestly!”

Almost everyone dropped his hand. He looked at us even more incredulously and said, “The rest of you were lying?”

(If you're wondering: I had the sense not to lower my hand.)

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