You know what else is great about my job? The fact that teaching actually teaches people stuff. It’s incredible! We’re at Day 15 in my pop music class and the students, who began the semester with basically zero knowledge of specific styles and cultural histories, are now hearing stuff and confidently being all “oh yeah that’s a classic R&B horn section but the horns are being played as percussive instruments, verily this must be funk” and “hmmm this sounds like honky tonk but with way better production values I wonder if these are white dudes from San Francisco who hate progressive rock” and “ah yes the classic Phil Spector ‘wall of sound,’ I surely would know it anywhere and would never mistake it for a Motown recording as I did in my youth 15 class days ago.” Discoursing upon the Great Migration and different urban blues styles. Asking smart questions about record label consolidation and marketing demographics. THEY LEARNED. I laugh with glee as I grade these damn quizzes! The last quiz I gave they pronounced “too easy.” Gonna have to bring my A game to the writing of the final. “NAME EVERY MEMBER OF SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE IN ORDER OF BIRTHDATE”
Similarly with grad students. To give somebody a reading list and then six months later they come see you all jazzed about how their topic has changed now that they’ve read everything on the list! When they begin they’re like “yeah, I think trombones are cool” and then a year later they’re all “branding” this and “immaterial labor” that and “as David Harvey demonstrates” this and “confidently quoting Bourdieu” that. It’s so cool that if you put your shoulder to it you can learn stuff. And the labor shall never cease but lo what a joy it is
I also am learning and enjoying it. The other day I read a book I’ve tried to read three times over the past several years, and this time it finally clicked, I had finally read enough and built enough of an intellectual scaffolding to understand it, and it all came clear to me and I was just like, oh yeah, duh, what a great argument. I always think of these moments the way math problems reveal themselves to Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind,” lighting up and rising into the air before his eyes. AHA!
It’s crazy that then you die and your brain just rots away and everything you learned just disappears