Shouting down the Guru
Once upon a time, i taught a class on revolution. It was not a history class, it was a design class. What we discovered was that you could only be a revolutionary in a field that you were passionate about, thus part of the class was about focusing on what the students cared most deeply about.
Another part of the class was about looking at power relations and disassembling them where possible, including the power relationship between teachers and students. Part of what we did to rebalance the power relationship was practice having the students in the first class yell “bullshit!” at the teachers.
This was not just a one-off cutesy exercise, it was an invitation for the entirety of the class. Whenever what the teachers were doing was boring or irrelevant to a student, we asked them to yell this at us. In response we would change the trajectory of the class. Sometimes the yelling student would take over leading the class (my favorite). Sometimes the teachers would listen to their critique, offer something different and if was acceptable we would do that instead. A few times we went out and played capture the flag in downtown Charlottesville where the class was held. A couple times we ended class early.
Perhaps every fourth or fifth class someone would yell bullshit at us. We never ignored it.
Students grow up. Ruth was one of my favorites. She was upbeat and clever despite having an impossible home situation. After she graduated she became a teacher of the class for a while.
She joined a spiritual community and found herself critical of the teachings of the spiritual leader of the group. One day during the daily teachings of the master, when the students were supposed to be quietly listening, she realized that what he was saying was nonsense. She yelled “Bullshit” at the guru and left the group.
There is no greater reward to being a teacher than feeling your “lessons” were applied.