Friday, February 16, 2007

All Hail Pleasureable Failure

One day, when I was in (I think) third grade, my teacher passed out a little worksheet. It was a mimeograph--you know, the sweet-smelling purple-text precursor of the photocopy--covered on both sides with instructions. The instructions were incredibly fun and easy--they told you to draw circles and squares around certain letters, solve math puzzles, make drawings, and break codes. The first instruction, however, was "READ EVERYTHING BEFORE DOING ANYTHING."

Naturally, almost everyone ignored the first one and dove right in. Wouldn't you? Presented with a fun, mysterious assignment, I saw no reason not to. I drew my pictures and solved my problems, and at some point noticed that one kid, call him Carl, had finished within seconds and was handing his paper in, to the teacher's evident glee.

When I got to the end, I saw that the last instruction was, "Now that you have read everything, write your name at the top and hand in the worksheet."

Carl was rewarded with a hearty and theatrical congratulations. The point of the worksheet, it turned out, was not to give us something interesting to do--it was to get us to follow instructions to the letter. Those of us who had chosen a pleasurable failure were chastised; the one of us who had chosen joyless submission to authority was praised.

Man, I'm still mad. As it happens I chose a career that is all about pleasurable failure, and I don't regret it one bit. And as for Carl? He now works for...the United States Department of Defense.



zoe said...

I remember that sheet. God, teachers are evil.

Anonymous said...

OMG, you got it too?!!? It's an international conformity conspiracy!

I'm sorry, but we SO foiled that shit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it's still doing the rounds. I might see if I can find it. I know so many teachers that love that catching-children-out thing. We must train our children to be alert for such activity.