First thing we do is…
Draft of 2006.07.23 ☛ 2015.03.17
To the extent that universities actually try to teach anything, which is to say to a very limited extent, they do little more than inhibit intelligent students of inquiring mind. And they are unnecessary: The professor’s role is purely disciplinary: By threats of issuing failing grades, he ensures that the student comes to class and reads certain things. But a student who has to be forced to learn should not be in school in the first place. By making a chore of what would otherwise be a pleasure, the professor instills a lifelong loathing of study.
The truth is that universities positively discourage learning. Think about it. Suppose you wanted to learn Twain. A fruitful approach might be to read Twain. The man wrote to be read, not analyzed tediously and inaccurately by begowned twits. It might help to read a life of Twain. All of this the student could do, happily, even joyously, sitting under a tree of an afternoon. This, I promise, is what Twain had in mind.
But no. The student must go to a class in American Literature, and be asked by some pompous drone, “Now, what is Twain trying to tell us in paragraph four?” This presumes that Twain knew less well than the professor what he was trying to say, and that he couldn’t say it by himself. Not being much of a writer, the poor man needs the help of a semiliterate drab who couldn’t sell a pancake recipe to Boy’s Life. As bad, the approach suggests that the student is too dim to see the obvious or think for himself. He can’t read a book without a middleman. He probably ends by hating Twain.
(Via Laudator Temporis Acti.)