When I was in college and the victim of a boring lecture--now I am the aggressor but once I was the innocent--I had few options other than paying attention. I could divert my mind through looking out the window at the visually numbing Indiana land- and weatherscape. I could doodle and write in my notebooks. I could daydream.
I could not talk to my friends; I would have been scolded and humiliated. I could not text my friends on my cellphone; cellphones were still the stuff of spy movies, Hart to Hart and the future; and, text had not yet made its debut. When push came to shove, I pretty much had to pay attention.
Not so, the modern collegian. While I was isolated from the world in a room in which Antigone was being discussed or truth-tables were being explained, the college student of today is never so isolated. In her pocket there is a device that silently, oh so silently, will allow her to keep in touch with her friends, roommates, paramours, relatives, even read her email and surf the web. And, so, without the isolation that students have always experienced when in the classroom, she has no impetus to actually pay attention. And not just in the classroom, but everywhere.
I suppose if I had a choice between listening to myself lecture and texting my friends I might get my thumbs working as well. I'm not sure that I'd do it through a choral concert, like the students in front of me in the University Chapel yesterday. I guess it's understandable, but that doesn't mean I'm not gonna get mad and explode at the next student who does it in my class.