Secret School

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September 24, 2011 at 12:32am


Attending lectures at fancy universities

When I first moved to New York, there was not yet a Platform for Pedagogy or Nonsense List for fun events and lectures. However, there was a very nice university nearby that my husband attended. I found out that they had open wifi access throughout the campus, lectures that were free to the public, a library that was fairly cheap to access, and generally relaxed security. I started sitting in on large lecture hall classes that I found out about through their online registrar and even buying the books for the classes from their book store. In the end, I enrolled as a student there for a year, but this always struck me as an amazing way to have access to an ivy league education (for what that is worth to you) for little or nothing.

There were of course drawbacks to this system:

  • I could never let my guard down enough to socialize with the other students lest I be discover. This is a huge disadvantage as I found that learning is a very social process for me. It hindered me from really enjoying the lectures.
  • Although I attended large lectures where there were always empty seats, I didn’t feel totally comfortable not compensating the professor for their labor. So, I ended up buying their books, promoting their research, and taking classes with them later. Finally, contribute to overall good energy of and appropriate participation in the class. As a teacher, I would take a secret student that is engaged with the material over a sleeping, paying student any day.
  • This system still privileges universities as the site for a “proper” education, thereby perpetuating the hegemony of these institutions. This is a general problem in education and it’s important to always be critical about it.

If you want to try this strategy:

Do your research. Go to the school and scope out the security and the other students there. See if you can blend. See what you have legitimate access to (events, lectures, etc), and have a good reason to crash a course.

Don’t be rude. Respect the teacher and students there. Don’t be late and don’t go to small classes where it will be obvious that you are just popping in.


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