Friday, February 02, 2007

I think therefore I have to pee ...Bac Blanc...Philo

Today is the day our high school begins administering exams called Bac Blancs in all of the subject areas. These exams are intended to give students a chance to see how they are likely to do in the end of year exams. This morning I monitored for one hour a group of students taking the exam in Philosophy, a course that is required for all French highschoolers, even those in technical schools.
When I entered the room, they had been working already for two hours. Everyone was hunched over their essays. The woman I relieved whispered to me that no one was allowed to leave the room. I nodded.

The test lasts 3-4 hours. Here are today's writing prompts (translated by yours truly):
1. Can one legitimately criticize a work of art as being immoral?
2. Work, is it only a struggle with nature?
3. Respond to a passage of about 600 words from the philospher Rene Descartes (letter to princesse Elizabeth, August 4 1645) in which Descartes discusses the relationship between reason, virtue and desire in the pursuit of happiness.

By the end of the third hour there clear signs that mental fatigue had set in. The boy directly in front of me had begun doodling on his scratch paper. As far as I could tell he was finished. He was chewing on candy he had stashed in his coat pocket. Discreetly, he asked me if he could go to the restroom.
I said no. He smiled but looked pained. A few minutes later a girl asked me the same question. By all appearances their requests seemed sincere, but I had been given my orders so again I declined, citing the words of the woman who had preceded me. I wondered to myself how they would last the next hour.
At the end of the hour my replacement showed up. He came in smiling, he's one of the friendlier types at the school. He was immediately presented with the same requests I had turned down. He looked at me; I smiled and told him it was his call. He shrugged and said, OK. Immediately there was a stir in the room as if an evacuation was about to take place. He throw up his hands and said, Slow down, one at a time. The girl was up and out of the room in a flash, practically sprinting down the hallway. I stood next to my replacment, smiled at him and the class pointing to my colleague and said, "Good cop." I then pointed to myself, "Bad cop." I was happy to see it work out this way, rather than me be the one to risk being the one who broke protocol.
I wonder what Descartes would have done in my place?


Anonymous erin said...

He definately would have let them wet their pants! Hahaha

2:02 PM  
Blogger kc said...

you've probably heard the computer geek version of Descartes famous line: I compute therefore IBM.

10:18 PM  

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