By Jack Mandaville I want to make a few of my...
The Veteran’s Guide to College – Part III
By Mr. Twisted
In the last installment, we covered the different types of students you can expect to encounter in your typical expedition through higher education. However, the simple fact is this: no matter how difficult it is to get along with some of your peers (having visions of right hooks and roundhouse kicks while they’re speaking and trying not to act on that), the reality is that none of them will be grading your papers; none of them will be critiquing your work and passing you through the class.
That special authority falls on the professor – the one who has spent most of their life in education and, for the most part, has a world view reflecting exactly that. Here’s how to deal with the different types you meet and how to pass their class without butt-stroking them into irrelevancy like you want to.
The philosophy hipster:
In every college there is a philosophy professor who is in his mid- to late-twenties. His hair is a bit longer than it should be. His shoes are more Manhattan-ish than anything else in your town. He wears skinny jeans.
Yeah, you know the guy. And yeah, he’s annoying as hell. But he’s really not that bad, because he’s still in that phase where almost everything is “deep” and intriguing. All you have to do is quote a lot of philosophers who were considered important at one time. Even if the people you’re quoting are in direct opposition to each other, the hipster will think it’s totally cool because to him, everything is acceptable. Aristotelian thought? Sure! Nihilism? Absolutely! Moral relativism? Maybe! Just use a lot of Latin terms like reducto absurdum and ex nihilo and you’ll do great.
The cranky, female English professor:
Though I somewhat covered this in part one, it is important to address again as this is a staple of every University in existence (I truly believe that it is a requirement to be an accredited school: “do you have a bitter woman teaching English? Yes? Okay, you’re official”).
Here is the biggest tip I can offer that will get you through those classes (and this applies to everything from English 101 up through world literature): English professors like to ask multiple versions of the same question. Yes, it’s ridiculous; yes, it’s redundant. But you still have to get through the classes. So figure out ways of – get ready for it – rewording the same answer. Yeah, I know, it sounds stupid – but it works.
Professor: “Was Dante’s vision of hell meant to inspire those who read it to avoid it?”
Me: “Dante believed that hell existed and wished for those who read his work to understand its torment.”
Professor: “Dante wrote extensively on Hell. Was there an intention of influencing the reader in a certain way?”
Me: “Hell, in the writings of Dante, is a description of the ultimate punishment and therefore a lesson in teaching about morality.”
See what went down there? Yes, it is tediously redundant, but it is (on summarized scale) exactly what one has to deal with to get through English classes. And somehow, beyond all rational thought, it works brilliantly for getting a good grade.
Remember the nerd from part II of this series? This teacher is the grown up version of that guy. It’s entirely possible that he will fully geek-out about your military background, but tread lightly for the same reasons as described in the warning about the nerd – you may end up hearing about how he played tuba for some 4-star general at the most important military ball ever held (this, by the way, is a real story from yours truly. I couldn’t make that up).
Though it is very possible that several other types of math professors exist, I have no idea – as you can see, I’m writing words to you and not pages of equations. I’m one of those special liberal arts kids.
Good heavens, where do I even begin with this one… Humanitiesis generally the department that houses classes like “gender studies” and “ethno-centricity in the modern age.” You know – the stuff that truly matters in the real world.
I’d like to give you some grand piece of advice, but the truth of the matter is that these people infuriate me. Usually you’ll have to sit through lectures by some professor who not only wrote their own book, but makes it required reading for the class. Their hubris is only exceeded by their unwillingness to look at anything that even closely resembles hard data, thereby basing every single teaching point in the class on how Western culture is wrong. And they will have beautifully-made graphs, charts, and videos that show…absolutely nothing in the way of hard facts supporting their theory, but you will – and this is a guarantee – be shouted down and called a racist, misogynistic, immoral, prejudiced, and Neanderthal if you challenge what they say.
Bribes, back-door deals, selling your soul – do whatever it takes to get out of these classes.
The tenured, 60+ history professor:
This is a tough one because this one can be either the coolest professor you ever have or the absolute worst. An example of the latter, I can offer the following (I’m a history guy, so I’ve had every type of history professor known to mankind:
An upper-level 20th Century history class I took was taught by a baby boomer who loved to go on long-winded rants about, well, everything under the sun. Oil? Evil. Government? Clearly evil. Capitalism? Worst evil ever. One day he went on a particularly emotional rant about the Vietnam War. Maybe he’s a vet and has some good stories after all… I thought to myself. He bore his soul. He laid it all out on the table. He broke down in tears. And… he had never been in the military.
Umm, say again last, over? Yeah, this guy wept like a baby about a war he had never seen except on TV. Was his brother killed? No. Sister? Mother? DOG??? Nope, nada, negatron, Batman. He was just so sad that we had been there and that the evil American capitalist regime had raped a poor, innocent land. And we had to hear about his sadness in excruciating detail and through multiple lectures (lectures which had absolutely nothing to do with any tested material, by the way). I got an A in the class by writing a tome about the space race – I think he graded it high because he knew even less about science than I do.
However, there are history professors that will simply blow your mind. The type of guy that, no matter what war you bring up, he can give you 35 examples of previous wars through history, how they were similar, where and how they were fought, and how the current conflicts we are involved in really aren’t that unique. This guy will show you that there is an immense amount of knowledge to be gained from studying military history and how it applies to the modern age (bring up a couple Youtube videos of Victor Davis Hanson for a shining example of this). Professors like that can make it worth it because they will challenge you while still understanding what you’ve been through (even if they personally have not). They have spent so much time studying war that they at least have respect for the guys who have been involved in one.
So, how do you get through a history class you’re struggling with? Step one: email me. Step two: tune in next time for my wickedly-fast rundown of American history, which will end this series on college. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry; or you’ll fall asleep. Whichever.
Until then, consult the CIB Chaplain for guidance and RTFU!