This school incorporates thousands of California’s top high school and transfer students every year, and then cripples the drive and motivation that made them top students by forcing them to traverse a long, deep mire of worthless introductory courses. These quarterlong exercises in futility can leave a lasting impression on students, like the impression a heavy, metal bat leaves on a soft, malleable skull. For those that need clarification, this is not a good kind of impression.
Often, the professor at the helm of an introductory course poses a very real and serious threat to his students’ futures. He is a departmental agent sent out to goad naive underclassmen into an otherwise conspicuously vain and unattractive field. He is the deceptive, bioluminescent lure on the head of the big ugly sociology major that is patiently waiting to devour you. Four years later, after you’ve passed through its digestive tract, it will shit you out in to the real world, and you will float around as little bits of ineffectual fecal matter until you die. (I offer an apology to all sociology majors for using you in this unflattering analogy, and a deeper apology to all anglerfish for associating you with sociology majors. Also, I apologize to any anglerfish sociology majors for my being unsure of whether or not I should apologize to you).
The easy nature of introductory course exams promotes a bulimic study program, which not only gives sorority girls an unfair advantage but also counteracts learning anything substantial. In order to earn a good grade on a test, most students do nothing more than gorge on information the night before, hold it in for a few hours and then throw it all up afterwards. This system amounts to almost nil retention, and in its wake leaves minds resembling the girl sitting three seats away from you, chewing on half a raisin and nearly fainting from the effort. (If you are this girl, I apologize for drawing attention to you. Bulimia is a disease, like AIDS, and should not be made light of. If you are sociology major as well, or an anglerfish, I rescind this apology, because I already apologized to you once, and that is enough. However, if you are a bulimic, anglerfish sociology major, I am very deeply apologetic, and as a zoology major, I would be interested in studying you).
Even in-class essays, which supposedly require more than ephemeral retention to perform well on, are unexceptionable. Although it isn’t made explicit, insight and extrapolation are frowned upon by introductory course graders. They expect strict regurgitation of the professor or the text, and do as much as they can to ensure this end. For instance, the common claim that hats must be removed during an exam to avert potential cheaters is a con and a lie; they just don’t want you wearing your dependable “thinking caps.”
Students can be no better, and usually are worse, than their professors and texts at helping themselves procure knowledge from an introductory course. Most of us are only concerned with our grade at the end of the quarter, and actively avoid digesting any more information than we need to. The non-bulimic students, such as the neurotic pedants who study regularly out of high school habit, learn little more than their upchucking classmates. Once I was nearly banished from a study group for trying to veer us away from the well-trod comprehension-avoidance study approach. My study partners were loyal bastions of ignorance – pre-meds – and even the tiniest suggestion of learning something made them writhe and spit in anger. They refused to allow a lowly, impudent zoology major that was hell-bent on asking questions, and clarifying information, and even – gasp – understanding the material beyond what was presented in class, to jeopardize their immaculate transcripts and colorful futures in medical school. Most pre-meds should never be in a position to prescribe medicine or perform surgery. We will all live longer, healthier lives if introductory sociology professors do their job well, and convince hordes of incompetent pre-meds to jettison their prospects, ambition and sense of purpose, and become sociology majors. I do not apologize to pre-meds.
Daily Nexus columnist Zach Phillips also apologizes to all the anglerfish he ate and threw up while studying them.