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It’s Hard To Know It All When You Don’t Show Up

, , , , , , | Learning | November 11, 2021

In college, I’m taking a class on the history and cultures of North Africa with a professor who was born in Algeria. We have a typical aggressive, argumentative know-it-all in class who regularly questions our professor when he thinks something is wrong.

The next class after our first test, our professor asks if anyone has any questions about their scores. Mr. Know-it-All raises his hand.

Professor: “Yes, what is your question?”

Mr. Know-it-All: “You marked my answer for question number six as wrong, but I don’t think it is.”

Professor: “Please remind me what your answer was?”

Question number six was something like, “Why is the African coast of the Mediterranean Sea known as the Barbary Coast?” It should be simple, but…

Mr. Know-it-All: “I wrote that the Barbary Coast was called that because of the pirates that used to be there. The pirates had a reputation as barbarians, so that’s why they called it the Barbary Coast. Barbarian, Barbary.”

Professor: “Ah, I see. The Barbary Coast was not named after simple barbarians, but after the Berber people who lived throughout North Africa. Do you see?”

Mr. Know-it-All: “That’s not right, though. The people who lived there were Tuaregs, like the Volkswagen Tuareg that was named after them.”

Professor: “The Tuareg were only one group of Berbers. Think of it like this. In Europe, all people are known as Europeans, but there are several different types of Europeans, like French or English or German. In North Africa, it is the same way; all people together are Berber, but there are many different groups of Berber, like the Tuareg or the Kabyles. Do you see?”

Mr. Know-it-All: “Well, no. I’ve never heard the word Berber before. I just think…”

Professor: “Then perhaps you need to come to class more often? All this month has been about the Berber people, and I have told you several times that I myself am Berber, of the Kabyle people. Now, you may please be quiet, or you may leave for the day and return when you are ready to learn about my people and others in North Africa. That is all. Does anyone else have questions?”

Mr. Know-it-All sat back and pouted for the rest of the class and continued to pout throughout the semester, but he never tried to openly challenge our professor again. Meanwhile, the rest of us students couldn’t help but be impressed by how our professor shut him down so completely, and he quickly became a favorite professor for many of us, me included.

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