Mash's Musings

Go to class

Published Apr. 1, 2021

Go to class. Don't worry about notes or what you miss. Just show up.

One of my top regrets in life is my abysmal class attendance in university. I'd imagine a plot of my class attendance vs time would look almost like a perfectly straight line from 100% in the first few months of freshman year to 20% in the final months of senior year. The regret does not stem from the lost GPA but rather the lost learning. I can already see my younger self rolling his eyes and mentally checking out. And as this is a directive for that younger self, this seems like a lost cause. But bear with me, since I think there is something that younger me missed.

Going to class is the best way to passively learn and collect extra GPA. Like reading, going to class gets built up as this great virtuous activity; one that requires the utmost attention, pre-reads, furious note-taking, and questions that are 9 parts flexing your understanding to classmates to 1 part real question. And yes, those will all absolutely enrich the experience, especially the flexing.. But the beauty of class is that you still gain something with absolutely none of that.

As mentioned in Mortimer J. Adler's condescendingly yet aptly-named How to Read a Book, it's important to get the gist of a book before really analyzing it. On the first pass, focus on what you do understand, instead of what you don't. This seemingly simple advice contradicts most of schooling where you can't progress until you understand. And I think this simple shift in focus, away from frantic dictation to a laidback absorption of occasional insight, is what's missed. The rest can (but probably won't) come later. Take the freebies while you can. Go to class. Don't worry about notes or what you miss. Just show up.