A philosopher at McGill University has stirred up a controversy by requiring students to get perfect scores on a quiz about the Greek alphabet or drop her class on Plato:
The course, which at times refers directly to original texts, requires students to gain a familiarity with the Greek alphabet. To make sure that would happen, Laywine tested them on the subject last week — with the requirement that anyone getting less than 100 percent correct would have to drop the class.
To be sure, the exam was given during the add/drop period, no knowledge of Greek was presumed and Laywine spent the first two weeks of class teaching the alphabet. But nervous students evidently spread the word: An article in the McGill University student newspaper this week described declining enrollment and fear in the classroom. “I dropped the class because the syllabus terrified me,” one student told the paper.
This reminds me of a joke I make in intro mechanics. When I talk about acceleration due to gravity, I note that I have a tendency to put a question of the form “Which falls faster, a heavy object or a light one?” on the final, and that any student who gets it wrong will fail the class. Getting it right doesn’t guarantee passing, but getting it wrong is an automatic failure.
Of course, I can’t actually do that, but I’d really like to. There are a few other questions that probably go in the same category: “True of False: The total energy in a closed system is constant,” for example.
So, here’s a poll for everybody who’s ever stood in front of a classroom:
What are the all or nothing questions for your class? That is, what are the simple questions that any student must be able to answer correctly, or be kicked out or fail the course?
Leave your questions in the comments. All comments must be in the form of a question, under penalty of death.