Sometimes you have to be a little daring; the trick, of course, is to know when. I made a few daring moves in the courtroom*, but I got the urge while in college.
- Read A True, Funny Courtroom Story The exam question at the end of a Political Science class – political philosophy – course at the end of the first semester of my senior year (final exam = very important test) was three words: “What is Justice?”
This course was taught by Professor Shavzin. I shall never forget him. This guy was all brain. Did he eat? Did he sleep? Did he ever do anything but think? I still wonder.
I had already been accepted into law school [I still wonder how, for I damn near flunked out my freshman year – came home on academic probation after the first semester; I had majored in four subjects: chasing wild women, drinking Jack Daniels, shooting pool, and rafting down the Kokosing river. I started a craze there, when I bought a raft at the Army Navy store in town and spent many a day pursuing 2 of my other 3 majors on the river!] so the grades, at this point, did not matter much to me.
I snapped out of it by second semester – or my parents would have killed me – got ok grades, and later aced the LSAT test, which saved my ass so far as law school was concerned. That was weird too. My Mom had always told me to study, but to be sure to get a good night’s sleep before any exam. The night before the LSAT I was so scared that I did not sleep at all… maybe 5 or ten minutes. I was shocked when I got the score a couple of weeks later.
So there I was, to answer “What is Justice?” For about 40 minutes I wrote feverishly the usual stuff: Plato said this, Socrates said that, and Aristotle said blah blah blah. Then the bright idea hit me. Why not answer Shavzin’s three word question with a three word answer?! I crumpled up my paper. The professor did give me an odd look; he could not miss it, for there were only about a dozen of us in the course (such was Kenyon: very small classes, which was great). I wrote “Justice is Fairness” and sat there for a minute thinking that was good, then I crumpled up that piece of paper and I wrote: “My answer to your three word question is three words: “I don’t know”. I figured he was so odd that he might give me an A for “bravado”, or he might give me an F. As I say, it didn’t matter, so I turned it in.
A few days later he announced that I had gotten the highest grade on the exam: an A-. In those days anything above a B was very, very, rare. An A, without the minus, was impossible.
He caught me on my way out of class, and said: “You know, I had to sleep on it before marking your paper. I wasn’t sure whether to give you an A- or an F. I knew that you knew what the philosophers said, so I gave you the A-. Why did you write that?”
I said: “I don’t know”, and he laughed. The strict professor who put you on the hot seat every day – you had better know the answer to the question when he called on you – was a nice guy after all.
The moral of the story: take a chance, be bold.