In our final year, each one of us was expected to present before the whole class a seminar on any (emergent or ancient, preferably something that is not part of the syllabus) topic related to our subject. Students from other classes were also invited to drop in. The first row would be occupied by the professors of our department. They would ask a couple of questions, a tiny smile playing at the corners of their lips – not too difficult questions usually, but enough to make sure we knew what we were talking about.

To showcase our superior knowledge of the topic, and to pre-empt dangerous questions from the professors, we also followed some valuable practices handed down by generations of seniors. One such was distributing paper slips containing questions to our classmates before the seminar. After we presented the topic, three or four of our friends would innocently read these questions out, hesitating and stuttering and gesturing at the right places so as to appear spontaneous (there would even be question-rehearsals before the seminar), and the seminar presenter would ponder and frown for a second and reply, a picture of confidence and poise, as though the answer had just occurred to him, only because of his profound knowledge of the subject.
The professors’ smiles would widen.

Legend has it that generations ago, one particular student approached his professor and said, “Everyone is distributing questions to their friends and pretending to answer them on the spot. What is the point?” The professor’s reply, as the story goes, was a shrug: “So? Did we tell you not to distribute questions?”

Everyone knew it was drama all the time, but it was done nonetheless, because it had always been, and because it served a purpose. The idea was to appear knowledgeable, confident, thorough, up-to-date,  competent and a number of other things. If drama was the order of the day, you better perform well. Besides, if no questions were raised by the students, the assumption could be that no one understood a word of what was said. Which would reflect quite badly on your seminar marks. Rather than have the students listen to the seminar (no one listens, anyway) and come up with real doubts, it was wiser to give good and safe ones beforehand. And finally, if everyone else did it and you didn’t, you would appear odd, again not in a positive way, and who could tell how that would affect your marks?
This way, everyone was safe.

So what is the moral of the story?
I am not sure there is (or should be) a moral to this story. And no, it is not that you should pass slips to fool your peers and bosses or to get ahead.

Perhaps it could be read this way: Even though everyone knows you do something that makes you feel good or look terrific or become more confident or be inspired, do it anyway ( as long as it is nothing dishonest!! ).

Just do it. (Nike obviously knew what they were talking about.)