In my previous post I blogged about how there's no real mystery to academic achievement, how my teachers told me I'd be on my own in college so I studied accordingly. Now I want to talk about a lie that they told me:
One of my high school English teachers said that in college you're expected to read books that aren't explicitly assigned. She said that if a literature professor assigned a novel it was understood that besides reading the assigned novel you should be independently scouring the library for critiques of the novel and background on the writer, so that you could come to class prepared to contribute to the discussion.
I took that to heart. The summer before my freshman year of college I was given the reading list for the humanities class that I would take that fall. The class had a pretty long list of classic works, and I decided that I would read the thickest book on that list during the summer, so that when all hell broke loose in fall I would have the worst assignment out of the way. So I read The Brothers Karamazov. And then I did one better: I read a biography of Dostoyevsky, because my teacher said that you're supposed to be proactive like that.
Well, in the middle of that first semester we were reading Dostoyevsky (and chemistry was hard as hell and sucking up all my attention, so I was very glad that I was ahead in my humanities class), and during one of the discussions a classmate started offering assertions about the author's life and views and how they related to whatever scene in the novel. I honestly don't remember what her point was, but I do remember that her assertion about Dostoyevsky's life was 100% wrong (remember, I'd actually read a biography of him, though I don't remember much of it 23 years later), and when I pointed that out the professor and class were rather uninterested.
So much for the idea that you have to be on top of things in college. Mrs. Sadowsky lied to me!