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Monday, June 24, 2024

Column: Professors

I was sitting in my political science class, playing Angry Birds, paying no attention whatsoever to what the professor had to say. The girl in front of me was browsing through blouses on Forever 21 and the guy beside me was watching videos on YouTube. Still, the professor passionately rambled on and on with dramatic hand motions. I never knew so much noise and visual movement could put a young and robust group of people to sleep.

My eyes, naturally, began hurting from playing online games for too long, so I closed my laptop and drifted into my usual reverie, where whimsically profound thoughts emerge. Intelligent and philosophical thoughts that made me feel like if I actually put more thought into my thoughts, I could become some sort of a Socrates or the next Jean-Paul Sartre.

Today, I thought about professors. Professors possess, it seems like, an infinite capacity of knowledge so vast that if their knowledge were tangible objects, even if divided among all citizens of the world, their minds would not be bare. That must be why they talk so much. And then suddenly, my thoughts skipped to a different topic as they usually do in these random daydreams during the middle of class.

Next, I thought about powerful people. Well, maybe not powerful people, but rather people who give birth to powerful things. Ya know, those who engineer rockets and telescopes that can take pictures of planets and stars far, far away from us, or those who have lead revolutions that can turn a society on its head and then bring it right back up to its feet again. People who devise objects that could steal the living breath of thousands of lives under a few minutes and people who invent substances to save millions of lives over a lifetime. Those who make war and those who make peace – where do those people get their knowledge from? This brings me back to my first thought: Professors.

Think of a great leader or a great artist. With the exception of those who were born with a bonus gift of natural brilliance (to the point where it could be considered unnatural), almost all those who appear in our textbooks, those great figures whom we admire and are forced to learn about – who were their teachers? Surely, someone taught them their ABCs and 123s. Someone taught a famous artist how to hold a brush, or a grand musician how to use her fingers. And we read biographies of world leaders and memorize their words, yet we never take the time to ask ourselves, “Who educated Winston Churchill?” or wonder, “Did Clinton fall asleep in his political science class?” and, “Who was his unfortunate professor?”

Professors know their stuff. How many professors have read the news and said to themselves, “These people don’t know what the hell they’re doing, they’re supposed to so and so.” Or, “They need to know that A will not work if they don’t implement B.”

Professors can run the economy, negotiate foreign treaties, come up with solutions to society’s problems and a host of other things. But they’re not running the country; they’re not inventing machines that can change the way we view the world; they’re not creating medicine that can save lives – they are teaching.

And although they have all the knowledge of this world, they neither choose power nor fame, both of which they could easily achieve. Instead they choose to stand, under garish fluorescent lights day in and day out, in front of a couple hundred students (most of whom are not mentally present) with the hope that their words will somehow fall upon good ears.

Why? Well gee, I’m not a professor so I can’t say for certain, but here’s my take.

These old folks that we see standing before us, rambling on about whatever, aren’t afraid to be more than professors. They are not professors because they prefer a dull and predictable lifestyle. That whatever they ramble on about for hours each day is their source of power and we, the students, are their tools.

It is through people like us that professors witness their knowledge impacting the world. So the next time you look at your professors, perhaps a little hunched over, wearing their used cardigans and spewing a stream of words, listen to those words! You are looking and listening to very powerful people, and it sure is nice of them to share that power.

Class ended. I woke up, gathered my things and walked by the professor on my way out. I smiled and thanked him. And I meant it.

What’d you think of my first column? All love letters and scathing vilifications can be sent to MICHELLE NGUYEN at michellen1990@yahoo.com.

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