Thing a Week 5: True Story

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There was a college philosophy class that students always tried to get into because of how fun they heard the professor was. They said he gave open-ended writing assignments and provided ample time for debate and discussions in the classroom, but didn’t penalize you if you didn’t participate. Although he was lenient in the classroom, he always made sure the students learned by his dreadfully hard tests. His system worked well; students heard about how hard the tests were, so they tried extra hard to learn the material they needed to pass.

One semester, the professor hinted almost every other day at a new final exam that he was coming up with that was supposed to be extraordinarily complex. Although he said it would be the hardest exam the students had ever taken, he promised they would have no trouble with it if they paid attention when he preached philosophy from his professor pedestal.

When the final exam finally rolled around, every student that had been in the classroom on the first day returned to their seat on the last day. The professor had a sizable stack of papers on top of his pedestal, and waited until everyone had arrived to begin handing them out.

Each student got a paper-clipped packet of ten pages of paper. On the first page there was one question, and the rest of the space was provided to write in. There wasn’t a single student that wasn’t surprised at the question, and some actually looked angry, scanning through the rest of the pages for the key to this silly trick.

The one question on the test was:

“Why?”

Several minutes later, when the students began to understand that the test wasn’t a joke, the sound of graphite scraping against paper filled the otherwise quiet room. Within five minutes of the test being handed out, one student stood and proudly handed his test to his professor before leaving the room.

As a courtesy to the other students, the professor neatly placed the test face-down on his desk to silently notify the students where to place their tests when they were done. The professor sat down in his chair, curious how the student finished his test so quickly.

That night, the professor came upon the test that had relentlessly teased his mind earlier. He looked down at the student’s answer, centered on the page in an impressive cursive script:

“Why not?”

The professor took a moment to appreciate the response and then marked an A at the top of the exam and moved on to the next one.

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