Peer pressure

The consolidation and channeling of students' collective anxieties for group self-control. The authoritarian hierarchization of reward and punishment generates a stair-step fountain effect by which every student in a class will attempt to insert him/herself into the professorial discourse of reward and punishment in such a manner as to retain reward and pass punishment on to the next lower level. Thus A students will help the professor "discipline" or maintain penal control over B students, A and B students will together police C students, and so on. By the same token, an F (or its equivalent in aversion therapies, such as ridicule and sarcasm) will serve as reward, in the form of an induced superiority complex, for everyone on a higher rung of the ladder; D's for D students will serve as rewards for A, B, and C students, and so on all the way up to A students, whose A's serve as punishment for those below (etc.).

Peer pressure can be applied in countless other contexts as well. By announcing on the first day of class that only 40% of the students will pass the course, the professor generates a self-perpetuating network of interlocking peer pressures, primarily through the suspicions and backstabbings of healthy competition. By keying a pop quiz to a single student's failure to produce satisfactory answers to oral questions, the professor redirects any vestigial student anger away from him/herself and toward the student in question, and creates an atmosphere in which students will drive each other to do the reading and prepare for class discussion, lest the entire class be "penalized" (testing as punishment) for the ignorance of one. It is fortunate that by the university level students have been well-trained in peer pressure, and will automatically disseminate professorial power throughout the group at the slightest hint from the professor.

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Copyright 1992 Bill Kaul and the peerless Doug Robinson