A couple of weeks ago my office became too busy for my reading, so I settled into a chair just outside the door–within five feet of Sydney’s office door. I knew his officemate was holding a conference in his office, so I looked up when a young girl walked up to his door. Learning that she had a conference with Sydney, I offered to take her to the philosophy lounge, one floor down, to find him. On the way there I inquired as to whether she was overwhelmed with end-of-term tests and papers, and I got an enthusiastic and voluble response that lasted the entirety of the walk to the lounge. We met Sydney coming out of the lounge, who actually showed a bit of surprise at seeing his wife and his student chatting away.
When I asked Sydney later that day how his conference with his student had gone (amused by the thought of Ms. Ponytail and my serious husband working through problems of cultural relativism), he shook his head. “I don’t know what to do with these doe-eyed students. They just sit there, pay attention to whatever I say, and then try to do that.” What, not pleased by obedience? “I want to know what they think, what position they actually might want to argue for, not just whether they were listening to what I said.” Sydney’s in the unusual position of having a philosophy section that is half women (in a discipline that is still mostly male), and he’s not quite sure what to do with them. I told him I have 14 very strongly opinionated women in my class that I could loan him, in case he started thinking all women were like that. In the meantime, I’m enjoying seeing him unsettled by earnestness.