From a Professor to a Student

Things look different from the other side of the desk. In May of 2005 I was sitting on one side; September I was sitting on the other. I remember thinking how arbitrary it was. Sometimes you gotta take the cake out and tell people to eat. How else are we supposed to know when its ready?  If they don't die, you're a chef. For symmetry, I wrote an open letter to my students, past and future.


To those venturing into the social sciences: unless you're independently wealthy or intrinsically care about the subject material, do something else. Five years from now you'll be walking around thinking the world owes you a living wage because your resume says BA at the bottom. When you find out that your starting salary is less than a full-time cart pusher at Costco, you might second guess your choices. It's a bad long-term financial plan. However, if you're the type who writes love letters to ideas, fascinated by the human condition, and enjoys reading as much as sex, you're home. Stay a while.

I have one goal for my class. Five years from now you're going to be at an art museum and some jag off if going to be yammering about existentialism. You'll be there with your significant other who loves you both for your physical grace and poise as well as your dazzling wit and charming intellect. If I suceed you'll be armed to the teeth with knowledge ready to cram truth down his pretentious neck hole. I want you to know Sartre's for-itself like you order your favorite coffee drink. Now hopefully you'll have the tact and good sense to bite your tongue at the sight of a boor, but I want you poised like a bear trap ready to take a foot off.

We're in this together. I love you guys. These books I'm asking you to read, they're my favorites. We get to make our own curriculum. Did you know that? Out of the entire cannon of literature, I picked these six books to share with you. I don't agree with all of them. You shouldn't either. But I think we should know them, especially the ones we don't agree with. I'm asking for your trust. For sixteen weeks, trust that I wouldn't make a fool out of you.

It's going to be extraordinarily difficult. I know. These books are both brutal and wonderful. I'm going to grade you hard. Your low grade means you don't yet understand Heidegger. It doesn't mean I think you're an asshole. My teachers stayed after class to answer my questions; I will meet you at coffee shops, in libraries, or before dawn if needed to answer your questions. I really love this stuff and if you are interested, I'll give you everything I have.

Let's learn some shit together.


  1. aw this is so cute. you should just use this in your next class, if you have one ^_^

  2. Not cute. Earnest and genuine. Which is what makes it good.

  3. Your class was tough, but it was amazing. It totally changed my outlook on life.

  4. Sarcasm was lost here.