The School of Hard Knocks

I went to college.

I know because I recently had to get a copy of my college transcripts so I could teach an advertising portfolio class at a local college. But here’s the strange part. When I looked at my transcripts, I didn’t remember taking half of the classes on the list.

Now, I can understand not remembering some of the content. But I don’t remember anything about the class. Don’t remember choosing it. Don’t remember attending any of the classes. Don’t remember having any discussion with any professors.

Now this scares me.

Did I attend these classes? I must have, I got good grades in all of them. Did I just not care about the subject matter, so I did enough to get through the class, but never really absorbed the material? What was the deal?

Here are the classes I don’t remember:

1) Anthropology 301: At some point in my junior year I had to take an anthropology class. Now, I work in advertising – this should have been very interesting to me. It’s described as ‘what defines human life and origins.” Now that sounds fascinating. I would like to take that class now. I have no memory of it. My grade: A
2) Introduction to Media 100: I had to take a media planning and buying class. What? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I know how to figure out TRPs and GRPs. I know the basics of ratings points and impressions. But I took a class in this? Zip. Nothing. Don’t remember even sitting in the class. My Grade B+
3) Tennis and Scuba Diving: OK – I remember taking these classes. Two physical education classes were a requirement. Can you image? Now, during the “Mad Men” era of advertising, knowing how to play tennis or scuba dive (I’m sure) was very important. But unless I’m entertaining client while on a shoot in The Cayman Islands, I don’t see how this was much use. Each was worth 2 credits. My grades: A & B
4) Photography: I guess this explains the stack of 35mm negatives I recently found. I don’t remember ever being in a classroom talking about the theories of photography. Studying the great photographic masters of the past. Looking at great shots from great shooter. Nope. I do remember owning a Konica AutoFlex T manual camera that was stolen. I remember I loved that camera. Don’t remember the class. My grade A

Here’s the other strange thing. While I have photographs from my college graduation, I have no memory of the actual ceremony. Bill Cosby was the keynote speaker. His topic to inspire us: I have no idea. I can’t remember a single word he said. I do remember working with him years later on two TV projects and he always referred to himself in the third person. “I’m sorry, Bill Cosby wouldn’t say that.” (I wanted to say, ‘aren’t you Bill Cosby?)

I guess this means that college gave me the degree I needed to begin my career, but I really learned my career by working in advertising. Now, I will admit, the curriculum at my college is VERY different today than it was when I was there. I’m sure they are preparing people much better today than in my day.

But than again, I recently interviewed someone from my college, and his portfolio was awful. So perhaps things haven’t changed at all.

One thought on “The School of Hard Knocks

  1. I recently heard Wes Moore speak. He wrote a fascinating book, “The Other Wes Moore”–I encourage you to check it out. He was speaking to a group of college students and said, “Education is important–who you are learning it FROM and who you are learning it WITH. When you get into your career, no one is going to ask you what courses you took or what your GPA was—How you spend your time, talent and blessings to bless others is more important than the details of a course or a major.


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