Lemmings: small rodents whose migratory practices lead them to follow each other in mass suicide by walking off cliffs, into the ocean, and thereby drowning.
I regularly tell my students: “Don’t be lemmings!” By this I mean something like “don’t be sheep,” and I usually say this when students look like they’re swallowing everything I’m saying hook, line, and sinker (holy mixed metaphors Batman!). I’d rather them show a little resistance. Don’t blindly follow me off the cliff and into the ocean!
Recently I said this to the students in one of my classes, and they asked me what a lemming was. I told them and explained the metaphor, but seconds later a student challenged me: “I just looked it up on my iPhone—that lemming story is a myth.”
That’s an ironic WIN if ever there was one.
My response was something like this: “That’s exactly what I want you to do! Call me out when I’m wrong!”
The same student wrote in her most recent paper something like the following: “A wise man once said ‘don’t be lemmings,’ but that statement has been red-flagged for review.”
From what I have heard, lemmings attempt to swim across streams, etc., when population pressures induce migration, and sometimes they don’t make it. There was some nature documentary of the 1960s that implanted the “suicidal lemmings” meme in generations of elementary-age students. Congratulations to your student for looking deeper and on her elegant use of her discovery.
Pingback: Laptops and theory in the Religious Studies classroom | Bulletin for the Study of Religion