The Student

A student learns what is known. What is sometimes called “academic” knowledge consists of everything that can be learned deliberately, all the truth (and even a little wisdom) that can be “passed on” through instruction. As a rough, imperfect approximation we can say that the university curriculum consists of what can be learned by reading a book and demonstrated by writing a paper. But there are of course trades that require instruction in workshops and, accordingly, more practical forms of examination. For this reason we sometimes distinguish between the student and the apprentice. But academic competence also includes a number of “craft skills” that are more easily presented and examined orally, or through exercise and observation. It might, then, be more accurate to define a student as someone who can learn something “in a class” — a group of people you shout at, as the Romans put it. That is, a student learns things that can be communicated by people who already know them to people who don’t. The student, ideally, pays attention.

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