A Syllabus From a Really Cool Professor, by Zack Stovall
What follows is a syllabus that was discovered following an extensive legal background examination, unearthed from the pages of a textbook that had been stored in the basement of a former student’s home, and is being submitted for academic review. Be advised.
Philosophy 202: Epistemology of Academia
MWF (9:30a – 12:20a)
Burlington Hall, Rm 301
Assoc. Prof. Anders “Norf” Norffenghaagen
Office: East Humboldt #901
Office Hours: MW 10:30-11:30 or by appt.
Office Phone: 303-607-7527
• Aubel, William. I Think Therefore Huh?: An Examination of Descartes’ Drinking Problem. Oxford University Press, 1997
• Pope, Montgomery. Alain de Botton’s Up: My Life As A Philosopher Stripper. Syracuse University Press, 2002.
• Mudd, Tobias. Kanye East: The Problem With Parallels In An Asymmetrical World. Mad Magazine University Press, 2008.
• Foreman, Judith. I Am A Rabbit. I Am A Rabbit. You Are A Rabbit. Princeton University Press, 1990.
This is a course on the study of knowledge through the lens of academia. We often associate learning, and therefore knowledge, through classroom activities, like reading books, attending lectures, watching Dead Poets Society on TNT, taking notes, and writing essays or thesis papers. But does that constitute true knowledge? What does constitute knowledge? How do you know that which you (claim to) know? How reliable is the classroom setting for gaining or articulating knowledge? All of these questions will be discussed at length in this new super-cool class.
Fair warning, students: I’m NOT your dad’s college professor. As this course description will hopefully tell you, I’m not what you’d call a “conventional” instructor, since I’m not quite sure we can say that conventional teaching leads itself to true learning. I love to think “outside” the “box.” I want students to be able to “blaze” their own “path” en route to true “learning.” I “don’t” know a lot about “quotation marks” but I DO kn”ow” plenty about fostering an environment of increased free form studying and learning.
We both are going to grow, by leaps and bounds, as we learn more about learning—and about each other—in this laid back, nurturing environment.
Attendance and Behavior
Attendance, obviously, is something that people have a difficult time coming to grips with. How are we supposed to abide by a schedule when all of the mechanisms at our disposal to determine spatial coordination are suspect at best and wholly unusable at worst? Know what I mean? YOU CAN’T!
I expect you to get your work done, but I don’t expect you to beholden yourself to MY schedule. That’s not what this class is about; this class is about learning what learning is! So chill out! But get your work done! Deal?!
I don’t necessarily “dig” it, but University policy is that I administer three (3) exams throughout the semester.
Calendar of Classes
1) January 20-24: I Don’t Know, But Neither Do You!
- No Class on Monday, January 20 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)
- You’ll be assigned a bunch of chapters to read, and be told that they’re crazy vital to set up the rest of the semester, but you’re not going to get around to it with the other classes you have on your plate.
- Dog-ear select readings earnestly.
- See chapters 10-14 in Aubel.
2) January 27-31: They Might Be Giants (Or They Might Be Ants!)
- You’re going to remember about the reading assignment from last class about 10 minutes before this next class, so you’ll say you’ll read it instead of going to class.
- Just watch another Law & Order: SVU instead of the reading you said you were doing instead of class.
- Dog-ear more pages haphazardly.
- See chapters 16-18 in Aubel, but lose your book.
3) February 3-7: We’re Going To Watch All the Matrix Movies
- You remember there’s no attendance policy and immediately stop fretting about missing last week’s class.
- Miss this week’s class just cuz. Remember about SVU too late, only watch the second half of the episode. Rip out out dog-eared page for rolling papers.
- One of you is going to show up and try to foster a relationship with me as the kid who “gets me,” and I’m going to eat it up because I am lonely.
- See chapter 24 in Aubel.
4) February 10-14: You Can’t HANDLE The Justified Belief!
- Walk by me, Professor Norff, while walking back to your dorm room the night before. Call me “Norff!” which I will mistake for a Cheers reference. Promise to make it to the next class.
- Give me an authentic President Obama™ fist bump.
- Google “Why was ‘Cheers’ so popular?”
- See chapter 69 in Aubel.
5) February 17-21: I Don’t Know Why The Matrix Trilogy Isn’t Called “The Matrices” Either
- Intentionally do not go to the next class.
- Sell Aubel book back to campus for $15 out of the original $60 you purchased it for.
- Spend that $15, inexplicably, on 18 beers and three shots of “whatever.”
- See me at the very same bar; ignore my gaze, my waves, and my eventual loud comment on whatever sports game you’re pretending to watch.
- See chapter 3 in Pope.
6) February 24-28: How Cool Was Allen Iverson, Really?
- Upon hearing a rumor of a pop quiz, make sure you still own your copy of Pope’s textbook, and set your alarm for class.
- Sleep through said alarm.
- After finding out the pop quiz rumor was started by me, Professor Norff, and the one suck-up still showing up to class, immediately sell the Pope textbook, and drink the profits.
- I reluctantly have coffee in the library with the suck-up, desperately looking around for you and other students who are actively avoiding my class.
- See chapter 22 in Pope if you couldn’t sell it back for some reason.
7) March 3-7: Your Watch Is Never Completely Broken, Unless It’s Digital or Is Snapped In Half
Friday: EXAM 1
- Come into my office (See: office hours [you ignore them]) and beg for this first exam to be open note/open book/open discussion because you “just get the material better when you’re discussing it with [your]self through [your] notes.”
- I acquiesce because you make a nice Ted Danson joke, clearly having spent some Wikipedia time on the Cheers page I moderate.
- Read Chapter 5 in Mudd.
8) March 10-14: Remember That One Part In The Matrix Where You Think You Got It? You Didn’t!
- Actually read a little bit of Mudd after you find out he used to work in the adult film industry.
- Research several hours of Prof. Mudd or “Muddweiser” on YouPorn, taking diligent notes.
- I watch a stirring Cheers parody starring “Muddweiser” on the projector in the empty class room, sobbing into the sleeve of my fake tweed jacket.
- See the cover jacket of Mudd and nail it to your fraternity’s mantle as a sign of honor before selling book back.
9) March 17-21: SPRING BREAK
- No class this week
- I stalk each and everyone of your Facebook accounts.
10) March 24-28: Externalism: Is That Your Freak Flag Flying?
- Spend four (4) days recovering from sunburn which, coupled with tetanus from your ill-advised tattoo, keeps you bed-ridden.
- Send me an email, stating as such, but spend most of it explaining who you are in relation to my class; fear I will not remember you.
- I am so thrilled to hear from you that I earnestly hope you feel better and send you personal notes regarding the class material from this coming week, none of which you comprehend.
- Throw Foreman textbook into the air and pelt it with beer bottles as it descends to the earth, because you cannot sell it back.
11) March 31-April 4: You Can’t PROVE the Sun Isn’t A Large Magnifying Glass…Bam!
- After my heartfelt and genuine email reply, you resolve to actually attend my class.
- Forget where my class actually meets, but finally get to second base with that person from your Econ class, whom you run into in the halls looking for my class.
- I bring my divorce papers to class. Brown-nosing overachiever tries to console me, and I yell at them.
- See chapter 4 in Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell because you’re “edgy.”
12) April 7-11: Internalism: Warm Liquid Goo Phase?
Monday: EXAM 2
- You beg for another “open everything” exam. I decline because I am furious at everyone (suck-up included) for not taking my class seriously while I get taken to the woodshed by my future ex-wife’s lawyer.
- You mutter “What a loser,” under your breath, and I act like I don’t hear it because I am a coward and I am currently explaining what the phrase “taken to the woodshed” means.
- I lose all of the exams down the drainage ditch outside my now-former house I am locked out of.
- Draw a cartoon of me in a library book having intercourse with myself while Cheers plays on a cartoon TV.
13) April 14-18: Why Don’t Men Wear Hats All the Time Anymore?
- You’re worried about your grade, so you begin to ask other classmates what they think of the class and what you should expect on the final. Nobody has any idea.
- I start thinking about what should be on the final. I have no idea.
- I act like I didn’t hear you and your friends sing “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” as I leave that bar we both frequent.
- Read Uproxx or whatever.
14) April 21-25: Sports Statistics
- You no longer care about your grade, and pelt my old house with eggs and beer cans.
- Joke’s on you: only my ex-wife and her boyfriend and his cousin live there.
- I do extensive Googling on a career in advertising as my boss walks in.
- See chapters 4-8 in the Plumbing: For Dummies!
15) April 28-May 2: A Priori? I Hardly Know Her!
(Dead Week – No Classes)
- You come into my office (See: office hours [you ignore them <again>]) with tears in your eyes, begging for a passing grade in my class despite having done no work, taken no exams, and attended one and a half classes at most.
- I begin crying as I hold the letter that I am up for review by my bosses.
- We are both screwed.
- Read each other’s’ expressions, saying nothing for about five minutes.
16) May 5-10: Finals Week
- You write about everything you’ve “learned” in this academic setting.
- I agree to give you a letter grade for every cogent page you can produce.
- You receive at lowest a C and at most a B+, deal?
Have a great summer!
Zack Stovall is a writer, cartoonist, and comedian. He has written for St. Louis Magazine, Memphis Magazine, and various other outlets. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife, Rebekah, and their goldendoodle, Newman, and can, when pressed, do a front handspring. Zack tweets as @zstovall and lost most of his hair sometime in 2009.
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