THE VALUE OF A COLLEGE EDUCATION
Submitted by The Historian
(Long but Good)
Many of you young persons out there are seriously thinking about going to
college. (That is, of course, a lie. The only things you young persons think
seriously about are beer, loud music and sex. Trust me: these are closely
related to 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 drinking,
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). These include how
to make collect telephone calls and get beer and crepe-paper stains out
of your pajamas.
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
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
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 casual relationship exists
between groundward tropism and lachrimatory, or 'crying,' behavior
If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty pages, you will get large
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