Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Zombie Students

I had an odd thought last week.  What if the best way to prognosticate the future for the U.S. is to consider B-Movies from the 1960s, select one or two, and base your projection off of that.  A few years back this would have seemed completely absurd to me.  Now it seems to fit with the general lunacy of our times. 

The particular film I will use in his piece is the George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.  IMDB gives it an 8/10 rating, quite high.  It certainly has spawned an impressive array of sequels.  I'm not sure why.  Is it pure escapism?  Or perhaps veiled social commentary?  As other members of my household became regular viewers of the latest TV reincarnation, I know it has a certain macabre fascination, though I'm not sure what that is and I don't find it myself, having not watched any of it.

The hypothesis I want readers to consider is that people we encounter, in our work and elsewhere in our daily lives, become increasingly alienated by the functions they are supposed to perform on a recurrent basis.  At some point they cross a threshold and are no longer themselves thereafter.  They have become, instead, new members of the living dead.  I wish this were some bizarre science fiction fantasy, nothing more.  But I mean it to be a description reality, or of what we think reality looks like at present.

What is some evidence to support the hypothesis?  If you are yourself an employee at your place of work are you experiencing some co-workers demonstrating chronic absenteeism?  If you are a teacher or a student, in your classroom are you experiencing some students who never come to class?  In either scenario ask yourself, where are these people?  That they have become members of the living dead starts to become an attractive explanation, rather than a telltale sign that you've gone over the deep end.

I am teaching a class this semester, one that I've been teaching for the last five years, on the economics of organizations.  For today's session, the third this semester, 14 students showed up.  At the time 30 were enrolled.  (Later in the day one student dropped who actually never had been in class.)  Several of the students who didn't show up today have never come to class.  I have tried to conjure an image of such students to explain this behavior and to reconcile that explanation with my own views of how the world works. Having been stymied in that, I find it intriguing to imagine that each of those who were absent has become a member of the living dead.

To entertain the alternative hypothesis, perhaps I am just not engaging the students sufficiently.  What we're seeing in that case is that they are bored out of their gourds and it is my tedious approach that is the cause.  Could be.  Maybe it's all me, not them.  So now that hypothesis is out there, even though for those who have not shown up at, all they have from me is a welcome to the semester email like the one I used last year.   That seems scant evidence on which to base a rather drastic decision.

So I will cling to the belief that they are zombies.  And I'm now viewing my mission as a teacher to keep those students who have shown up so far from turning into zombies as well.  I can't remember how the original Romero movie ends.  I hope it wasn't entirely fatalistic at its conclusion.

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