Thank you, bad class

A tribute to the one who forms us

Getting in college gives the expectation that we’ll have a bunch of amazing classes. Such a lie is perhaps created and fed by some American movies which show amazing classes being lectured in an amazing classroom where a super smart and cool teacher or student asks or answers a super smart and cool question, both charming and full of those plot-sustainer psychic disorders.

But the real deal is — and I think that even in those great American movie universities things run the same — a huge part of the classes in the life of a student is actually pretty bad. And being narratively less attractive, they remain ignored. But I do think ~we need to talk about~how bad classes are in fact a fundamental part of our formation process.

Among the most evident benefits of a bad class is that it makes you give value to a good class. That one which seemed too hard and that has a complex final paper to do; that one which will make you feel stupid and a worthless idiot if you haven’t read the text… maybe that’s the one you should put your efforts in. And who if not good ‘n old bad class to remind you of that?

Bad classes also have that vital social function of refueling energies. It’s that gap of time in your day when you recover the strength to go on or when you take some rest from a hard day of work and study. And everybody knows the difference half an hour of good sleep can make in your life.

But not every bad class is given by a nice professor. If we’re talking about that kind who demands you to keep awake all the time, then it’s another scenario. Now we should focus on the constitution of a strong physical and psychical discipline, This is the kind of situation that activates your survival instinct. The kind of event that forces you to take that extra energy out of nowhere. It’s like water over the belly button, hitting your chin when a wave is coming. The danger sign that forces you to swim.

And that’s how the world works. You can’t sleep anytime or anywhere you want.

Now, if the demand for vigil ain’t enough and the professor also demands your presence every class, then add the discipline with time. You’ll have to act against your will to reach in time a place where you don’t want to be to stay for a period you don’t want to lose. Well, this is learning to live an adult life itself.

All those years of pre-college education just started to forge that chrono-physical-psychic discipline that university is going to sharpen.

The huge effort demands not only a great capacity of organization and time management, imperative abilities for surviving but also a major dose of patience and detachment, a capacity to flee the world and leave in the material plan of the classroom only your bare carcass. A true meditation exercise as of elevated Yogues and monks.

And bad classes also foster social cohesion and group integration. How many times did you skip a bad class to chat in the hallways or even to have a beer, and therefore got to know better your classmates? And doing so you heard of that great new movie, you had that mind-blowing conversation, made a friend for life?

And at the bar what was the topic to start the conversation? The bad-fucking-class! The bad class is that kind of secret card, the eternal topic, a mighty ice-breaker. Shared suffering creates bonds.

By the way, skipping classes is actually something that bad classes teach like nothing else, what can be a great act of liberation from the institutional impositions and the bureaucratic rationality which suffocate us every day. It’s an act of resistance, of liberation if you want. Ain’t it beautiful to see that nerd righteously skipping a class to have one. A rebel seed starts to flourish.

One could say that bad classes also have moments of precious productivity, which is indeed true. These can be moments when you decide to start a spending spreadsheet or a list of must read books n this year. The bad class is where you finally learn to connect to the only wi-fi network that works on the building but which requires a specific sign up process you never had enough patience to go through.

But the truly good bad class is the one who serves as a stimulus to great reflexions, such as an exam of you inner motivations and life objectives, or as a tortuous empathy learning process or even as an analysis of the social context where these miserable hours pass by. Let me explain:

How many times the professor standing before you didn’t represent the very type of professional you don’t want to become. Regardless if you want to be a professor or not. You are there, facing someone (who fits in at least one of the following characteristics) uncompromised, unhappy, incompetent, boring, snobbish, uninteresting, cocky, with a self-perception capacity that should be close to null who is the definite counterexample for any job or career you might have.

But which career is that, after all? Will it be this one you’re getting your degree? How many career crises don’t spring at a bad class, isn’t it? Maybe this is the impulse you needed for you to chase what is really worth in this area you once had larger than life dreams. Or quit once and for all to go after a dream long left behind.

Now, if becoming a professor is actually your way, few things can be more stimulating than a bad class. At least in my country, the process to become one usually involves giving a class for your future peers. So, if in several of the most prestigious universities (at least in Brazil) many of the undergraduate courses have more than half of their classes marked by a cross-generation mediocrity, this part of the selection may not be that hard. Therefore, you’ll have plenty of time to get busy with the other stages, such as building that infinite-scroll-curriculum, writing a memorial or even making some friends, which is always good.

Besides, earning some thousand bucks for not having a time register or a supervisor and be able to say anything you want to a silent audience is that kind of dream job, isn’t it?

But we would be unfair and awfully severe if we forgot another kind of counterintuitive benefit of the bad class: precisely its capacity to awaken solidarity and alterity in us.

At some point, you might have asked why that teacher acts that way. How can one be capable of having a job in which one is despised by dozens of students, hundreds, even thousands if we count the years? How can one repeat the same slides, the same board schemes from so many years ago? And before one’s peers, other teachers, how is one’s relation? Does this person have friends

There you go, that nice bad class reminding you not to expect just efficiency from the others. And also making you notice that the mediocre teacher can actually be a pariah, a frustrated person that never found another professional path or even a madman with an illusion of grandeur never truly diagnosed.

What brings us to the particular character of the teacher who is an excellent and reputed researcher that is just not a teacher. Well, this one may also lead us to consider society in a more general way, the fragmentation of work itself, the schism between teaching and researching that makes them incommunicable universes, a whole bunch of factors that allow a supposed notorious persona to become just incompetent and ignorant before a classroom, pedagogically speaking.

After all, bad classes are a great stimulus for you to abandon an eventual Peter Pan syndrome that makes you want to stay in college forever, as no one can stand losing so much time. It’s a stimulus for you to graduate.

My dear, a time comes when bad classes finally do their job and must be left behind. A time comes when they teach you everything they could and moving forward is the only thing left. That is why I would really like to graduate again just to pay a tribute to the bad class, this fundamental and inescapable element of our formation.