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December 2013/January 2014 | Volume 71 | Number 4
Getting Students to Mastery
Grappling with difficult texts—it's like trying to get your bearings in bewildering surroundings. Here are some strategies that can help.
Near the beginning of the 2005 movie Wedding Crashers, John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) contemplate crashing the wedding of the secretary of the treasury's oldest daughter: "We've never crashed anything like this! Five hundred single women! Three live bands! Oysters!" Because this is a clear step up for them, they review some of the wisdom passed on from their friend Chazz (Will Farrell), a veteran who has since moved on to crashing funerals. One of his rules was "toast the couple in their native language—only if you know the native language." (Jeremy had attempted a toast in Hindi—with embarrassing results.)
The art (and challenge) of crashing is to appear at ease in situations in which we don't belong, to which we have not been invited. It's an act of impersonation, of seeming to know things you don't know. It's knowing just enough to get by, to pass. Compared with the invited guests, the crasher has a much tougher cognitive task: to quickly figure out the dynamics of the scene; who's with the bride, the groom; the dynamics of the in-laws-to-be; the backstory.
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