I love it when students realize that what I’m teaching them about arguments, belief, and consequences actually applies to Real Life. The crash of the US economy made many a skeptical student see that persuasion and belief has a larger role on ‘real’ things — business, money, power — than they initially were willing to accept. Students also sometimes put together what my piano teacher told me about her experience of reading financial magazines instead of keyboard-focused journals: Business people may think they are acting on the basis of numbers or logic, but there’s just as much feeling and hunch-playing as in the arts.
One student, in a classroom full of liberal arts majors, said, “People bought these derivatives because they believed this was a sure thing. And other people believed that house prices would always go up, and people believed them… And that’s why we’re in all this trouble? People just stopped believing?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And that was rhetoric, right?”
“Yes. People were persuaded to believe something, and they acted on it. It wasn’t a matter of concrete ‘proof.’”
“But the business people think that theatre and humanities aren’t as ‘real-world’ as what they do!”
The class was now buzzing with side comments, some more indignant than others. I just smiled. “And what do you think now?”