How Many Professors Do You Actually Still Think About?

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I dropped out of college. I hate that I dropped out of college, namely because it is invariably the subject of intense curiosity when it comes up with others, and being a devotee of curiosity myself, I would usually rather learn about them without resorting to an annoying Socratic exchange about what set of assumptions and societal norms led them to deem "exotic" a conversation partner upon the revelation that he or she lacks a dozen or so course credits. But if cutting short my college degree has taught me anything — and it sure as fuck didn't teach me how to stop drinking like a college student — it's that most people do still buy into the notion that college is a good idea. College is actually a stupid idea, as "Professor X," a smug/adept writing instructor at a third-tier college points out in the June Atlantic. I would even go so far as to say that American college is almost as stupid an idea as American high school is stupid in execution. Is there a sector of the economy in which the average American spends more to achieve less? Well yeah: War, health care…Why harp on the negative? I consulted some college veterans on my Buddy List in search of some answers to one of the worthwhile aspects of college: the rare professor you still think actually think about.


Tracie had one, William Serrin, who taught her reporting and, in her words, "how to cut the crap and not cry about it."

Megan: "There was an adjunct in the German department at my university who was the first older guy I ever wanted to bone, but I only think about him under rather specific circumstances. There was a prof in grad school I wanted to sue for sex discrimination and now wish I had, and one on my study abroad who hated me who I was randomly put in touch with a couple years ago." Megan's biggest intellectual influence was her high school German teacher.

Don: "Steven Bronner - total asshole. Marxism. was considered the 'voice of new Socialism' — i considered him the 'voice of old lechery' Marjorie Howes - Joyce seminar and Irish literature courses. it was all about the material maybe. Some other dude, who taught my satire class - i think he hit on me. perv." Don reads Ulysses every year, for whatever reason.

Anna had two favorite professors: one taught a creative nonfiction class; one taught a Dostoyevsky seminar. (True story: The nun who taught my fucking high school AP English class pronounced it "Dostoyvesky" and I think that's why I spent that year sampling eating disorders in lieu of literary greats.)

Balk went to college for a semester and a half, which explains why he is a genius.

And the DrunkenStepfather is also an autodidact! Not only did he not attend college, he doesn't even really read, although he made an exception for the Barbara Walters memoir and The Art Of The Deal. (Which I have also read.)


The one professor I still think about is Francis Fukuyama, with whom I took a graduate class at George Mason after I dropped out, namely to see if I could get away with taking a graduate class without actually graduating. The readings overlapped probably 50% with readings I'd been assigned in a (much more expensive) seminar I'd taken at Penn, but somehow he made it so I could actually understand them. No easy task, as Professor X could tell ya.

And finally, because I'm obviously deliberately ignoring the obvious point that "Maybe If Your Career Involved The Application Of Critical Theory Or Ancient Philosophy Or Whatever You Would Think More About Your Old Professors And Less About This Fucking Website," I asked my friend Jess. "Totally," she said. "Jim Nechas. He would have been a great blogger."


In The Basement Of The Ivory Tower



@That_little_attention_whore: I dunno, man, if they let me write that master's thesis about the American Character seen through Stephen King's Maine (Derry and Castle Rock) I think it might just be a party. :)

My favorite Profs (courtesy of Brandeis University, a lovely liberal arts institution):

Professor Jerry Cohen (AMST) - for being 2000 years old, having seen Abbie Hoffman hang himself from a cross on his (Cohen's) first day of teaching, for telling inappropriate stories about his first marriage, for being an expert in JFK's assassination and related conspiracy theories, for being an expert on American conspiracy theories and conspiracy history in general, for advising my epic thesis and praising it even though I'm pretty sure he didn't agree with me that much, for kicking that kid out of first class and then the school in the first class I took with him who physically threatened me after I defended anarchism and tried to intimidate me outside my dorm that night (and he was a senior, too), for being my advisor and telling me that all my batshit ideas were worthwhile.

Professor Morrison (ENG) — for making me read "Ulysses" first semester Freshman year and demanding that I take it seriously; for truly loving only two parts of "Ulysses": when Joyce describes a broken cup as "nothandle" and for how he spelled a cat's meow ("mgreoeow" or somethin' like that); for teaching The Lion King in your Popular Culture class; for being the first prof to bum me a cigarette during class break.

Professor Feeney (JOUR) — for teaching "The Art of Feature Writing" and "Arts Journalism"; for bringing me the Washington Post crossword puzzle every Wednesday (he's an editor at the Boston Globe, and therefore one of the only people in Boston who can regularly and easily get The Post) after I told you I was from DC; for crafting the best reading lists I have ever encountered in my life (seriously, I make him keep me updated with each new reading list he puts together for his classes); for helping me edit the second (longest) chapter of my thesis; for not letting me get away with half-assed work when you knew I could do better; for being seretly related to me, distantly, through marriage.

and finally, Professor Whitfield (AMST): for doing that Independent Study on Rock 'n Roll in 1950s America with me; for letting me write my final on Bob Dylan; for reinforcing my love of 20th century American culture; for introducing me to the Cold War and its academic awesomeness; and most importantly for being the single most intelligent, thoughtful, kind and learned person I have ever encountered, and for imparting that to me as best you could which in turn has inspired me to do everything to be as knowledgable as you, hopefully, one day. Oh, and for inviting me to slecture your class because that kind made my life.