Ah, spring. It’s that time of year when the hills and forests are ringing with the sound of “hoot-hoot-hoot!” and “ah-woooo-gah!” and “honk-ah-honk-ah-honk-ooooh!” and, well, you get the idea. The Annual Windham County Hog Calling Competition, you might guess? Nope, it’s the time for oral exams and the concomitant celebrations that happen after each graduating senior leaps this last hurdle. I mean, nothing warms the heart of this crusty old, world-weary, jaded, jaundiced—and, well, you get the idea—nothing brings out the daffodils and lilacs in my heart like Marlboro students cheering on their comrades after orals, celebrating and hugging like they just won The Next Food Network Star or something.
Orals are kinda mysterious for those of us who only get to hug the examinees and enjoy the food and libations assembled on the lawn in their honor. It’s like a clandestine rite of passage or something, a ritual to enter the secret society known as the Benevolent Order of Marlboro Graduates. According to Nikki Haug (somewhere in the middle of that group hug, above), who recently learned the secret handshake herself, there is no blood-letting or scarification or other ritualistic practices involved. She say’s it’s not only an opportunity to impress your outside examiner that you’ve thought deeply about the concepts in your Plan, but also to show them how much other stuff you’ve learned along the way.
“Your orals are supposed to demonstrate both that you know your stuff and that you know other stuff,” said Nikki in a blog post called, “Most everything you will ever want to know about Plan.” This post has many helpful suggestions, ranging from “Get a Plan Buddy,” to “You will read things that won’t help you,” to “You will always feel like you could do more—and that’s probably true—but you need to know when to stop.” Nikki wrote a truly remarkable Plan about Victorian poets Robert Browning and Lord Alfred Tennyson and their critiques on materialism, especially in relation to the theory of evolution by natural selection, so her sound advice stands to help many future inductees to the secret society. “Ah-woooo-gah!”