How funny, I recently started Aikido again, and I had the same exact experience at my new dojo as the original poster describes. After reading this and going back to class, I noticed that it was a different experience. The advanced students that trained with me eagerly showed me all the techniques in a step-by-step fashion, and were very patient with me as I screwed them all up!
I also noticed that the first day of class for me was taught by an advanced student who probably wasn't the greatest teacher. the next session was taught by one of the two main teachers, and was vastly different.
Chuck, I'd like to know how well you've adapted to your class since you've posted this message. I once trained in Yoshinkai style, which was far more verbal and class-participation-oriented, and I felt a bit of shock in this class, much like what you've described. How do you feel now?