In the fall of 1986, I took an introductory class in American government from professor Larry Wight at Sierra Community College. I loved the class and I loved the teacher.
And then a funny thing happened.
During each class, I found myself talking more and more. Then my questions turned into statements and I began trying to take control of the room. Once, I even dressed down the teacher for presenting an unfair perspective.
That’s when Larry Wight blew up at me in front of the whole room and said he found me increasingly hard to take.
I felt shocked and never repeated my arrogance with him. Even though I think I deserved an A grade that term, Mr. Wight gave me a B.
I loved Mr. Wight and took two more classes from him (even though I didn’t need the credits). We had no more dust-ups. I had learned my lesson.
In my final semester, in his role as the chair of the Political Science department, he gave me and another bloke an award for Student of the Year in Poli Sci.
When I transferred to UCLA, I wrote him a letter thanking him for his teaching. He wrote me back a short note to the effect that I had a good brain but that I should be careful how I used it or people would hurt me.
Ever since then, I’ve found that when given an inch in the classroom, I feel an irresistible urge to try to take over.
This never ends well.
My self-destructive tendency probably has something to do with my father being a college professor and having to spend thousands of hours of my childhood listening to him and often thinking I could do better.