School and expectations

It’s amazing how little it’s really possible to learn over the course of a semester.

A person doing a PhD takes a tiny fragment of a field and devotes years to learning about it.

A person who takes a semester-long class, by contrast, tackles an entire subfield, or even (in introductory classes) a whole field, and tries to get a sense of it.

No matter how much time we have in the day, and no matter how hard we work at it, there’s only so much that can be accomplished in four months. And it’s a very rare person indeed who has the leisure to take a single class in a semester and has no other responsibilities to worry about, let alone the discipline to stay focused within such lengths of time.

It’s a hard thing for me to remember. It’s strange to work so hard at a class and then leave it with only at best a most basic grasp of its subject matter.

There’s a part of me that such classes only make sense in the bigger context of a life devoted to continuous, endless private study.

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