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 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 sleeping and
trying to get dates.
Basically, you learn two kinds of things in college:
* 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.
* 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 life.
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 about. 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
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 of each:
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.
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.
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.
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 forms." If you can keep this up for fifty or sixty
pages, you will get a large government grant.