To My Sophomores

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Dear New Sophomore,

I would call you by your first name, but I haven’t met you yet.  But I will, in about a week, and then I really need to know your name, because it is important to call people by their names.  In fact, I am so excited to know who you are, I want you to go ahead and learn the names of everyone in our class.  This way you know that we are a team, and we are all trying, together, to fill in the gaps of knowledge that we all have.

You might meet your new best friend in this class, so go ahead and learn names in case that is the case.  You might also meet your intellectual nemesis, the person who drives you so crazy with their condescension and pretensions that you throw yourself into your work, graduate summa cum laude, and get your law degree from Harvard, just to show that person a thing or two.  People want to be addressed by their names, because almost everything in this world is personal to someone, and you are kidding yourself if you think otherwise.  Plus, it is harder to say something unkind if you have started that sentence with someone’s first name.  Trust me, if you can learn the periodic table, you can learn to remember names.

I want to reassure you that I completely agree that it is unfair that you are labeled “sophomores,” which inevitably makes anyone with a pulse think of the word “sophomoric,” and I am here to tell you that I have met people with doctorates who better fit that description than many of my students.  What can I say?  Labels are unjust, but they can also be great incentives for proving everyone else wrong.  The traditional meaning of “sophomore” comes from the Greek roots for “wisdom” (think of the the word “philosopher,” which means a lover of wisdom) and then the root for “fool” (the same root for words like “moronic”).  I know this seems oxymoronic:  How can you be wise and foolish at the same time?   Some roughly translate “sophomore” (besides being a second year student in high school or college) as someone who has gained knowledge, but not enough wisdom to know how to apply it.  Some think of sophomores as those who think they know more than they actually do.

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