The “Big Lesson”

In my prior post on “College,” I mentioned a “big lesson” from Dr. Erickson.  I spoke of this lesson in a paper delivered to the Chicago Literary Club on April 2, 2007 (see

September.  Freshman year. My second or third week of college.  On academic probation.  Dr. Erickson was teaching a course in political science. I had been slouched in my chair, probably doodling and not paying much attention to the class. Suddenly, I heard my name “Mister Petersen.”  It was Dr. Erickson asking me to answer a question. With considerable ease, I looked up and offered “I’m not prepared” and I went back to whatever it was I was doing.

Dr. Erickson padded over and stood by my seat. “Stand up,” he said. I looked up. “Stand up,” he repeated. So I stood up.

Mister Petersen, so you’re not prepared?  Well, let me tell you – if you’re not prepared to answer a simple question, you will probably not be prepared to answer the tough ones. You’re not prepared today so I would bet, Mister Petersen, that you will not be prepared tomorrow either.  Perhaps you don’t care.  And if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you.”

The sweat began trickling down my neck. And he went on.

Mister Petersen, you have two choices in life. To try and be prepared for what needs to be done. Or not.

Dr. Erickson finished his comments and from that day forward, I was never again unprepared for his class (duhhh – I’m not as dumb as I look).  I was generally quick to raise my hand and I was usually ready with an answer.  Others in the class had learned a lesson that day too (at my expense).  I ended up getting a “C” in the class and I took four more courses from Dr. Erickson (A’s and B’s).  Poly Sci became my major and he was my faculty advisor.  No – I didn’t whine because he badgered me.  I was truly grateful for the lesson.   More kids should have such lessons (or perhaps the one I posted on November 23, 2011) . . . .   

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