September 6, 2005

Spring semester of my senior year of college, MIT’s Noam Chomsky, not only a brilliant political mind but also the father of modern linguistics (my field of study), decided to offer an undergraduate class. He had never done so before and he has never done so again. The class was open to students from other universities, so I decided to try it out. There were a dozen students there every Tuesday afternoon, listening to the man who had invented the field and who continued to be one of its chief innovators and pioneers. It was like hearing Darwin lecture, or Shakespeare. Every word out of his mouth was an epiphany.

But that was the semester I’d worked my schedule so that I only had class on Monday afternoon, so I had to drop the course.

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11 Responses to Spring semester of my senior

  1. Bob says:

    Hmm… that sounds awfully familiar.

  2. Groomzilla says:

    God, you really are a heartless sack of shit.

  3. matt says:

    well, if one is going to drop — do it in a big way!

  4. Jannah says:

    Can you please kiss the fella and give him a hug for me? I’m taking teaching english as a second language and have to take some linguistics paper and I SO hate phonetics transcription but noam chomsky seems cool and well that’s just about it. Bye.

  5. anapestic says:

    The reasonable inference here is that he’s never offered an undergraduate course again because you dropped. Most MIT students believe that Harvard students never bother attending classes anyway. It is good to have confirmation.

  6. Another Joel says:

    Well, one can only take so much epiphany in one’s life.

  7. Mush says:

    You dropped Noam Chomsky?!

    Wow. That actually makes you cooler than anyone else I read. 😉

  8. David says:

    Good God.

  9. birdfarm says:

    I was horrified to read this. I wasn’t sure if we could still be friends.

    But then I started remembering my own senior spring. I dropped classes because the seats were too hard, and, for a final exam essay question, wrote something like “I have no idea how to answer the second part of this question, but please don’t fail me, I’m a senior.”

    I’m also recalling Loopy’s outrage when she found out that I took a class from Aage Sorenson–one of her heroes who has apparently since died, so she’ll never get to hear him speak–and that I mostly came late, sat in the back, and slept (what can I say, it was my first semester of regular sexual activity).

    So I guess I would be hypocritical if I were to condemn or chastise you. Furthermore, I guess we can still be friends.

  10. bitchphd says:

    I once dropped a class with Howard Nemerov because it just met waaaaay too early in the morning.

    I’m glad to know I’m in good company.

  11. Mike B. says:

    While I like his politics (to a point), the man’s truly an awful linguist. Most modern linguists are waiting for him to die, at which point most of his recent theories will be tossed cavalierly aside.

    Psychology, sociology, neurobiology and typology are all crucially important to linguistics. Chomsky doesn’t care about any of them. He makes up his own models and disregards all evidence that might show them to be unhelpful.

    He’s a brilliant man, but you’d have to go a long way to find someone else as destructive to his own field.


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