Thursday, April 16, 2015

A free book dilemma for high school students

Adam Cleary's generous donations to the book fair

One of my English department colleagues, Adam Cleary, donated several weight training and fitness books for the book fair that took place during at our Language Arts and Leadership Conference. By doing so, Cleary unknowingly created an interesting dilemma for the high school students.

Prior to the fair, I predicted that Cleary's donated books would draw considerable attention from the young men attendees. Over the years, my first-year college guys repeatedly pointed out that they viewed access to the university's fitness center as a major benefit of attending college. Relatively few students had access to such a facility in their immediate home neighborhoods. Given their interest in athletics and working out, I assumed that Cleary's weight training and fitness books would be particularly interesting for younger guys as well.

Turns out, I was right, but with a catch. Cleary's books generated all kinds of positive attention from the students. They flipped through the books and had extended conversations about the materials. What I had overlooked though was that Cleary's books also presented a riddle or small dilemma for the guys.

Is the young man who takes free weight training and fitness books in a room with 40 or so other young men publicly admitting that he is currently unfit? Apparently, versions of that question were floating around in the guys' heads.
Sure, all of us would benefit from weight training and fitness books. But allowing everyone to see you taking the book, added with the pressure of being cool high school students, was a different story. Only two high school students took books.

But no worries. The college students were permitted to choose from the books after the high school students were done. The college guys were less timid about their immersion in weight training and fitness.

Language Arts and Leadership Conference

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