In the slow lane

For the past five weeks I’ve felt a bit like the fellows in the kgb commercial. You know, the one in which two men frantically search on their cell phones for a Japanese translation of “I surrender” before the sumo wrestler attacks.

So I have an unbounded sympathy for the poor fellow who is so slow that he can’t access the information he needs to keep from getting squashed. I’ve been taking a course in Chaucer at UNC, an endeavor that comes with plenty of challenges, not the least of which is trying to keep up with the youngsters in the class. I feel like some Medieval scribe scrambling to scratch out answers on parchment as the class accelerates around me.

On any question the professor throws out, I’m always several seconds behind the students at coming up with an answer. By the time I can access the information in my turtle brain and formulate an answer, the others are on to the next challenge like a herd of jackrabbits. They are sharp and quick and eager to learn. More important, they have grown up with instantaneous access to information, and that shows in their classroom accomplishments.

As someone who has not set foot in a classroom since 1979, it is disconcerting to be back rubbing elbows with folks who think nothing of putting together a Power Point presentation or having continuous access to answers via the Internet while sitting at a classroom desk. The professor asks a question and the brisk clicking of keyboards yields the answer almost instantaneously. I feel like a spectator in some fascinating TV quiz.

We will take the final exam for the class on Friday. I fully expect to be the last student to turn in the exam. And while it humbles me to be the last one out the door, it also is reassuring that each of these students will tackle many of life’s problems with a quicker brain than I had at that age.
– Don Evans

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