Read what Matters

Guess which university’s newspaper celebrates the fact that college students never do the assigned reading.

Study Skills Series: The first Monday of every month, we give timely, practical, and original study skills advice. Timely means it’s especially useful during that month of the school year. Practical means it’s easy to act on. Original means we wrote it ourselves and you can only get it here.

Everyone knows that college students don’t do the reading and grad students have more to read than they could ever get through, but people don’t like to talk about these things because they reveal that higher education is a scam.

Behold the American University newspaper The Eagle, whose racks unironically boast that the paper is, ironically, “The only reading…that matters.”

Full disclosure: I read every word in college and grad school, except in that one class on international development I took in college where both the professor and the TA were so frustratingly stupid that I refused to read the books out of spite and instead just regurgitated what the instructors had lectured to us that they wanted us to know about the books. Other than that class, I read every word in my nine years of higher education, but that was because I had time, and that was because I had great study skills.

If you don’t have enough time to read everything, you probably need to upgrade your study skills.

But what if you have certifiably good study skills and play college baseball or are in the high school play, both of which take forever? Or what if you’ve just been slacking all semester and find yourself in April with four months’ worth of reading to do in four weeks? What then?

Then you read what matters. If it’s a scholarly journal article, read the abstract. If it’s a textbook, read the chapter intros and summaries. If it’s fiction, read your lecture notes. You did take notes, right?

Reading only what matters will help you keep your head above water academically long enough to get drafted, collect your flowers, or even graduate, if you’re into that. It’s a valid but shortsighted way to do school.

When you only read what matters you’re assuming that what “matters” is determined by contrived academic requirements, rather than the existential requirements of life on Earth as a person who may need to account for unknown unknowns.

It’s a tragedy that you don’t need to do the reading to graduate from college these days, so don’t make a habit of it, okay?

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