From a Student to a Professor

If I ever start taking classes again, I'll be a nineteenth grader. Nick the student is old enough to vote, legally consent to sex in California, smoke cigarettes, and fight and die for America. I've been outside of academia for a while and had a chance to ruminate on my experiences. This is an open letter to my professors, past and future.


Don't trust me. I think I want a class to be fun, light, airy, and social. I think I want you to be hilarious and entertain me to break up the monotony of my daily class schedule.

I don't.

I'm short-sighted and dumb. I'm a baby. My high school English class was a blast. I made great friends, laughed, and loved coming to class, but I still don't understand punctuation or have any idea what a preposition is. Don't be afraid to bore me with stuff I should know.

In 2005, I graduated top of my class in psychology without ever opening a textbook. And I'm no genius. The curriculum was a joke. I should have failed! Why didn't I fail? To be fair, I don't know Freud from a Fudgesicle now (though I'm pretty sure he'd think that comment was telling). Please, give me rigor. Push me; I don't know how to push myself. Kick my ass. Show me that there's a part of the world I don't already understand and rub my face in it. Humble me now, because if you don't the world will. And it won't be in a comfortable, safe, Nerf class setting. It will be on date, at a job interview, or in front of people I respect.

Only after I started studying philosophy that I was made into anything resembling a real student. To everyone who calls the basement of Cain Hall home, I thank you. You taught me how to read, write, and think. It was you who showed me the respect of reading my papers critically. And though they looked like football play books when you were finished, I learned something.

You were right. Most of the time, I wasn't saying anything. I wrote self-indulgent papers that only satisfied a selfish, narrow, and ultimately uninteresting assignment. But that didn't stop me from trying to pass it off as a work of unyielding creative genius. Your assignments were difficult; I pretended they were constricting my artistic sensibilities, but I was motivated by selfish cowardice. To produce great work under specific guidelines took more skill than I had.

I'm sorry for wasting your time. I didn't know any better.

A side-note:
To Dr, Hoffman, who broke me of my bad habits and taught me better ones, I thank you. When Heidegger, Kant, Sartre, Hegel, Dostoyevsky, Camus, or Kierkegaard, or Merleau-Ponty are brought up, I speak with poise, authority, and confidence. When students leave your class, they say that they studied under you, not that they took your class. You were my model for what a professor can and ought to be.

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