Taking Notes

So I’m taking a little nap in class, which I usually do in-between drawing doodles in my twenty cent notebook and going home. I’m in the standard comfortable position of sitting in my chair with my head resting sideways on the table, but then I experience a rude awakening. The table starts vibrating awakening me from my slumber. The only other guy sitting at the table is furiously typing something on his laptop which is on the table.

Okay, that’s cool. If I had a laptop I would probably write code in class instead of sleeping, also. But wait… That typing is too fast and too constant to be coding. Coding is short quick bursts of typing interspersed with long bouts of deep thought. This is non-stop word processing going on here. Maybe he’s writing a paper for another class? Maybe he’s really good at nethack? Maybe he’s making a blog entry? Whatever it is that requires such a quantity of typing during class must be interesting.

So I lean back and take a peek at his screen. As soon as I realized what it was I almost leaned too far. Which is good, because I did not want to provide the entire class with a weeks worth of entertainment. What I saw was Microsoft Word (blech! use AbiWord of OpenOffice if you want to save a few hundred bucks)and within it were notes for the current class. Get a grip, maybe he’s a paid not taker. But this class has no deaf people! There is no note taker! Oh noes! I can’t believe that there are actually people in class taking real notes. And this guy was taking some fancy notes! He had diagrams of the professor’s drawings and bullets of just about everything that was said or written on the board. If he posted these on-line the rest of us could have skipped class.

To let you understand my shock let me tell you my personal history of note taking. Around the fourth grade I had a teacher tell us to take notes. Taking notes then consisted of copying down the things she wrote on the overhead projector. At that point in my life I could not understand why this would be necessary, but I did it because I thought it might be an assignment. When I found out that the only purpose of it was to take home and read I ceased doing it. I had never taken notes before then, I just listened to what the teacher says and remember it. In fourth grade I was still capable of continuing to learn this way, so I brushed off note taking.

Time moved on through middle and high school. I was always told by various teachers that I should take notes. The reasoning was that I wouldn’t need the notes now, but that if I didn’t take notes in the higher level school I would surely fail. I always believed it like a dumb-ass, but thankfully I made an excuse; “Oh? Then I’ll start taking notes in the next school.” One middle schoolteacher actually required us to keep a notebook that was checked and graded. I made a very well organized notebook with the minimum amount of content to pass.One high school teacher also had notebook checks which were to look for homework as well as notes. At this point I had quit doing non-graded homework and note taking was obviously only going to be necessary in college. So I just got terrible grades on those. The teacher was pissed that I still got 90+ grades on the tests.

So here I am in my fifth year as a CS student at RIT. All I need to do to receive my BS degree is finish classes this quarter and take 4 more classes next quarter. I also have one more co-op, but that doesn’t mean anything. I am guaranteed to graduate a very high quality university without ever taking a single day of notes, in any class, ever.

Now, by no means am I a genius. In fact, my GPA is mediocre at best. I’ve never had an IQ test, but all of my friends like to think they are smarter than me and say it freely. Hell, sometimes I’m stupid and I know it. Neither my memory nor my attention span are so amazing as to draw attention. Hell, it takes me two or three weeks to remember my class schedule let alone anything more complicated. And even when I’m programming in C, which I first wrote in when I was 13, I keep a reference for syntax handy. As for an example of my weak attention span, ask my former roommate about me crossing NYC streets too soon or too late.

Given all this you can imagine how blown away I am by people taking notes in class. What are they doing? Why go through all that effort for nothing? What scares me even more is the library. The RIT library is a great place, full of free information in a comfortable atmosphere. But I see people there doing schoolwork. They make copies of books. They get huge stacks of literature and retreat to cube desks for research. I can understand if you were working on a thesis how this might be appropriate. But often I go in and see people from my classes studying. They are studying for the class I am in with them. There are people, in the library, studying, for a class which I am also in and am passing easily, yet I have never so much as cracked the spine of the book. What the fuck? Sure, I can understand maybe a cursory glance before a test or quiz. but people are spending multiple hours studying days before a test. I cannot believe this. Never has a class at RIT required that kind of effort to achieve a passing grade. From what I understand “studying” is when you read over notes and text using various techniques to refresh your memory of information in preparation for an examination. In this sense of studying I have never in my entire life studied for more than a few minutes prior to an exam.

Let me disclaim and make sure not everyone immediately takes offense and thinks I’m calling them an idiot, and that I alone am the only intelligent being on earth. First, I already have given a pass to paid note takers. They have a very good reason to take notes and their purpose is legitimate and necessary.Second, I have already devoted an entire paragraph to humbly admitting my own stupidity. Lastly, I understand that some people have different ways of learning. Some people have trouble “absorbing” information from lecture, and writing down and/or reading information helps them to learn.

Now let me make everybody offended and call you all idiots. If you can’t retain information given to you very quickly by people talking you are going to fail in this world. You cannot take notes on what everyone says to you everywhere you go in life. Do you see people walking around with notebooks writing down everything that every person says to them? No, you do not. People remember what they are told. Since I don’t remember ever seeing a person walk around campus taking notes on causal conversations I assume that the people I see studying also have this ability. Yes, it is true. Every single person reading this is fully capable of learning without note taking or studying. You do it in every aspect of your lives except for schoolwork.

First, I admit this. If I had studied and taken notes like all these other people I would probably graduate from RIT with a much higher GPA. Studying and note taking does work. However, here is the part where I rescind previous statements and tell you why I am smarter than every one of you studiers. Your GPA is an intangible imaginary number. The only time it will matter after college is in three situations. The first situation is applying to graduate school. The second is if you want to work somewhere that requires a GPA that is high, such as the FBI or NSA. The last is if you want a few extra Latin words added to your diploma.

Think about this. Twenty or thirty weeks I will receive an extremely expensive piece of paper from RIT. The same piece of paper that every other CS major gets. In the long term, my GPA will mean absolute dick. My rare and valuable programming experience will far outweigh any negative my GPA carries. And after my first real job nobody will ever ask me for my GPA ever again. And I was able to acquire this piece of paper for the exact same amount of money the rest of you paid. But not only that, I did it with less than half of the effort.I am smarter than the rest of you for one reason and one reason only. I was able to maximize my enjoyment of life by spending the minimal amount of time necessary to achieve a passing grade while leaving the maximum amount of time for enjoyment of my very few and very precious college years. Too many people I meet in the real world remember college as the best days of their lives that they long to return to. I wasn’t about to piss these valuable years away by spending time studying or doing other un-fun schoolwork related activities. And in the end, I get the same end result as every single one of you living in the library. If you enjoy studying and note taking, then you are excused. You are making your life more enjoyable. But for most people it seems that schoolwork is not the most enjoyable activity. That is why parties involve drinking and screaming and not math problems and history tests. Every single one of you is capable of putting in the minimum effort just like me. There is no reason for this excess of studying and note taking, none at all.

When I was in elementary school they said that my grades were the most important thing in the world, and failing at school was failing at life. In middle school they said my grades were the most important thing in the world,and failing at them meant no honors classes in high school, which means failing at life. In high school they said that my grades determined what college I could go to, which would determine the rest of my life. Thank god that after being lied to three times I figured it out. A slew of bad grades in high school got me into RIT, the college I wanted to go to.

I now share my secret knowledge with the world! Cast away your books and writing utensils! Get out of the library and grab a Frisbee! You can achieve your long term goals in life without wasting time with all that bullshit. For anyone who still isn’t convinced, just look at the President of the United States. How much time do you think the leader of the free world spent studying and taking notes? My point is proved. To all of you who already live my way, rejoice. To all of you who heed my call, congratulations! Despite what you have already lost in wasted time you have become better for realizing your error. For the rest of you still studying today and every day let the rest of us join with Nelson Muntz in saying to you, HA HA!

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