Unless you are learning a scientific discipline, keep away from classrooms
if you possibly can. Do not attend classes on literature, or on writing. They
will do you no good, and may do you substantial harm.
I have been teaching in classrooms for almost 50 years, and I spent much
of my 15 or so years of ‘education’ in them as well. At college I managed to
avoid them after the first year. The professors simply read their books
aloud to the students, and if I’d wanted to know what they were saying I
could have bought or borrowed the book, or taken it out of the library.
I should add that I’ve been not only a college professor for these past 50
years, at half a dozen universities on both sides of the Atlantic, but have also
taught in high schools. I’m not an academic; I’ve never written an article, on
any subject; occasionally I’ve written a piece like this, a sort of rant; I’ve
reviewed novels, for many journals and newspapers, because I am by
trade a novelist. As a result of my novels I am a ‘Full Professor’ at an
American university, and have been so for over 20 years.
The best you can say about classroom learning, in the so-called
‘humanities,’ is that they are a waste of your time (and money); they keep
you off the streets, but only briefly. The best way to learn how to read, and
how to write, is to read. You don’t need anyone to hold your hand while you
do this. You need to find writers you like and read them – and them only.
Don’t bother with any writer who doesn’t grab you by the heart.
The harm that I mentioned in my first paragraph comes precisely from
being told who and what and how to read. You may think you can take it or
leave it when it comes to such ‘teaching.’ You’re wrong. Don’t fool yourself.
We are all suckers for other people’s opinions. (Not only ‘teachers,’ but
your friends and your peers.) Keep your self-education to yourself, unless
and until you stumble across someone who shares your passion for a given
writer. (Not just for a given subject. It’s how each person, and each writer,
process a topic that makes their comments, their work or their book, a true
I ‘teach’ in the loosest possible sense of the term. I teach literature, of all
kinds, languages and centuries. I offer students books to read, in the hope
that at best one or two of them will fall in love with one or two (unlikely that
it’ll be more than one) of the authors – who will be their companion for life,
and will confirm for them the thoughts and feelings that no one else ever
has or ever will express so closely to your own. It’s a bit of a miracle if that
happens more than once every 4 or 5 years in my classroom. The rest is
just talk; pleasant talk; no ‘essays’ (what could be more idiotic?); all of it is still
a waste of time, when you could be out in the world, searching, finding and
not finding, falling in love, having your heart-broken, all the things that you
will be doing anyway, when you’re not in class.
So class is simply a kind of expensive jail time. (Unless you do thereby
discover an author – or a classmate – this is the real purpose of schools –
to fall in love with.)
This is the good news, since one day you’ll ‘graduate’ and escape the
prison of education. No more classrooms. (Unless you’re so witless and
lacking in purpose that you return to the classroom to become a teacher. I
did so because my novels. Although much-praised, they don’t sell enough
copies to pay the bills. And I love my students. And I like to tell them to
The bad news, which I also try to tell my students, is that classrooms infect
your soul. They instill competition, which is the death of the soul. The rest of
our sick so-called ‘civilization’ also instills competition, ‘ambition’ to make
money, and the rest of the pitiful apology for living that dumbs our life down
and shrinks our spirit.
Outside of class, and after classrooms, you may try to clean your mind and
soul of the toxic values that ‘education’ feeds into your system. It’s a
lifetime’s work, to be free of the warped values of the classroom. Good
Travel! Travel much. It will help more than anything.
Written by the Anonymous Professor
Stay tuned for our next blog post which will focus on Zines in classroom settings.