FW: Thinking back on college (fwd)
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 96 12:33:18 -0700
Subject: FW: Thinking back on college (fwd)
[Oh, Dave Barry is such a bad boy... -psl]
Forwarded-by: Brian Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Forwarded-by: Karen Downing <email@example.com>
<forwards deleted after the exam>
DAVE BARRY ON COLLEGE
College is basically a bunch of rooms where you sit for roughly two
thousand hours and try to memorize things. The two thousand hours are
spread out over four years; you spend the rest of the time sleeping and
trying to get dates.
Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:
1. Things you will need to know in later life (two hours).
2. Things you will not need to know in later life (1,998 hours). These are
the things you learn in classes whose names end in -ology, -osophy,
-istry, -ics, and so on. The idea is, you memorize these things, then
write them down in little exam books, then forget them. If you fail to
forget them, you become a professor and have to stay in college for
the rest of your life.
It's very difficult to forget everything. For example, when I was in college,
I had to memorize -- don't ask me why -- the names of three metaphysical
poets other than John Donne. I have managed to forget one of them, but I
still remember that the other two were named Vaughan and Crashaw.
Sometimes, when I'm trying to remember something important like
whether my wife told me to get tuna packed in oil or tuna packed in water,
Vaughan and Crashaw just pop up in my mind, right there in the supermarket.
It's a terrible waste of brain cells.
after you've been in college for a year or so, you're supposed to choose a
major, which is the subject you intend to memorize and forget the most
things about. Here is a very important piece of advice: be sure to choose a
major that does not involve KNOWN FACTS and RIGHT ANSWERS. This means you
must not major in mathematics, physics, biology or chemistry, because these
subjects involve actual facts. If, for example, you major in mathematics,
you're going to wander into class one day and the professor will say:
"Define the cosine integer of the quadrant of a rhomboid binary axis, and
extrapolate your result to five significant vertices." if you don't come up
with exactly the answer the professor has in mind, you fail. The same is
true of chemistry: if you write in your exam book that carbon and hydrogen
combine to form oak, your professor will flunk you. He wants you to come up
with the same answer he and all the other chemists have agreed on.
Scientists are extremely snotty about this. So you should major in subjects
like English, philosophy, psychology. and sociology: subjects in which
nobody really understands what anybody else is talking about, and which
involve virtually no actual facts. I attended classes in all these
subjects, so I'll give you a quick overview of each:
ENGLISH: This involves writing papers about long books you have read little
snippets of just before class. Here is a tip on how to get good grades on
your English papers: Never say anything about a book that anybody with
any common sense would say. For example, suppose you are studying
Moby Dick. Anybody with any common sense would say that Moby Dick
is a big white whale, since the characters in the book refer to It as a big
white whale roughly eleven thousand times. So in your paper, you say
Moby Dick is actually the Republic of Ireland.
Your professor, who is sick to death of reading papers and never liked
Moby Dick anyway, will think you are enormously creative. If you can
regularly come up with lunatic interpretations of simple stories, you
should major in English.
PHILOSOPHY: Basically, this involves sitting in a room and deciding there
is no such thing as reality and then going to lunch. You should major in
philosophy if you plan to take a lot of drugs.
PSYCHOLOGY: This involves talking about rats and dreams. Psychologists
are obsessed with rats and dreams. I once spent an entire semester training
a rat to punch little buttons in a certain sequence, then training my
roommate to do the same thing. The rat learned much faster. My roommate is
now a doctor. If you like rats or dreams, and above all if you dream about
rats, you should major in psychology.
SOCIOLOGY: For sheer lack of intelligibility, sociology is far and away the
number one subject. I sat through hundreds of hours of sociology courses,
and read gobs of sociology writing, and I never once heard or read a
coherent statement. This is because sociologists want to be considered
scientists, so they spend most of their time translating simple, obvious
observations into scientific sounding code. If you plan to major in
sociology, you'll have to learn to do the same thing. For example, suppose
you have observed that children cry when they fall down. You should write:
"Methodological observation of the sociometrical behavior tendencies of
prematurated isolates indicates that a causal relationship exists between
groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior forms." If you
can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get a large government
© 1996 Peter Langston