"Why? You know the scene I'm talking about."
"But your reader may not know what you're talking about."
"But you're my reader!"
"When I read your essay, I pretend that I have not read the original."
As you can imagine, my fourteen-year-old self was not so happy indeed. And I never got very satisfactory answers to this question, either. My teachers usually pulled the "I'm the Teacher" Card, so I just dutifully did that they told me, albeit begrudgingly. Yet somehow, I still fell in love with Mrs. Strouse, and I decided as a sophomore that I wanted to be an English teacher.
In college, I encountered this same game in virtually every class. Why do teachers pretend not to know things? I became trained in education, and so then I started to pretend not to know things. It's funny because I still didn't really "get" why I should act like this. It wasn't until grad school that the wheels started turning. In my TESOL methods class, when the whole class was given back their exams, I found I had a minus on my essay question and didn't understand why. I answered the prompt very well and gave many concrete examples. The professor then made this comment to the whole class:
"A lot of you lost points because you did not even mention the issues in the prompt in your introduction. Remember, you have to do something to orient readers to the topic you're writing about."
It has only been recently, especially as I've taught many different levels of students, and students in sheltered instruction in particular, that it has begun to dawn on me. I'm teaching an assignment now where students summarize and respond to an article. I've read the article they're writing about, but of course, I pretend that I have not.
"Why?" my students ask me.
"Because this time, I've read what you're writing about, but later on, you'll write a bigger paper with more sources, and I probably haven't read those other sources. I need to make sure you know how to accurately and clearly summarize something in this one assignment before I can trust you with summarizing sources I've never seen before. You need to develop good habits of clearly explaining yourself because eventually you'll get into a situation where your reader has not read what you're writing about, and hopefully by then you'll be able to make good summaries." (this also applies toward how I teach students to avoid plagiarism, which I will write about soon)
Well, I have a stack of papers that I need to go read and pretend I don't know anything about, so I bid you farewell. Have fun with your feigned (and yet pedagogically-sound) amnesia!