I've noticed something: Most teachers have very complex intellectual needs but are still humans and have very simple emotional needs. A little background: I'm currently taking an intro physics course. I'm not a physics major, I am a computer science major, but this seemed like an appriopriate forum, since there are a lot of math geeks who might understand my situation. Regardless, the class is a requirement, so might as well go forward with it. The first couple tests were relatively straight foward. They were mostly like the homework we've had. I struggled to understand some of the concepts, and thanks to some helpful people in the homework forum, I actually understood it well and got 113 on the previous test. But yesterday, our test was just enough outside the HW to put me into a fright-paralysis.. You know, deer in the headlights type of moment.. I probably bombed it, although I'm definitely not the only one. Ruminating over the questions, I came to realize that at least one in particular was specifically designed for one student in particular, who had seemed to impress the teacher with his curiosity to learn beyond the textbook. It was a question (or set of questions) related to potential energy graphs. Now in theory, I could have gotten it. I mean, he put up the answer sheet immediately after the test and none of the answers was terribly complicated. It was probably more my fear and lack of genuine interest in the topic that threw me off. However, if this were a mere isolated incident, I would just blow it off and continue as if it didn't happen. But I'm beginning to notice a pattern. Let me tell you a few more stories. Case #1: In my linear algebra class, just this last summer, the teacher began the class with a discussion of fields. Now, I knew what a field was before coming to the class, but for some reason, he goes on about it for nearly two or three classes about how fields are related to matrices and vectors. And I'm like "WTF? Why are you bringing this up?" Turns out, this guy did some research into the Riemann Zeta hypothesis for his PhD thesis, which, IIRC, is related to finite fields. I dropped the class because of a very embarrassing mistake.. Mostly due to my self esteem and depression than to my abilities. Case #2: About 3/2 years ago, I was in my intro discrete math class. The guy was well known to be an ******* but that information was not well known to me, so I ended up in that class with only 10 other people, all of us clueless about the material. When he introduced first order logic, I found it to be very intuitive. I had been writing software for at least 3 years prior, and you ask yourself similar questions about proof of correctness. When he sees that I actually understood the concepts, despite his lack of teaching, he starts throwing in stuff even more complicated stuff, related to abstract algebra and category theory. In particular, threw in a question related to the powerset functor, which I guessed at, and almost had.. As turns out he did research in topoi, which apparently makes use of that particular functor. I drop out due to financial problems, and also because this guy starts creeping me out and staring directly at me while teaching the class. Case #3: I retake my discrete math class, and have a much better appreciation for mathematics as a whole. I walk in there somewhat scared, but I notice this particular teacher is actually a little personable. After a few tests, I notice he doesn't go very far beyond the text, and actually makes it clear that the homework and the tests are the same format. After the 7th or 8th week, he starts throwing in ideas into the lecture that seem familar to me. I come to find out that he too was a category theorist, and was straying a little bit from the standard curiculum. I start talking to him about this strange and abstract subject and we end up pretty friendly during and after class... He throws in a few simple proofs about associativity of functions and whatnot into the tests. Needless to say, I ace all of them without a problem. The only conclusion I can come to is that some teachers, especially the PhD's, are lonely in their ivory towers. They've studied their specialization for nearly a decade and, at the very least, want to see at least one or two out of the hoards of students that enroll become genuinely interested in the topic they are teaching. After all, they have the power, might as well try and convert a couple to their religion, right? That said, I think the only way to "win" at the college game is to know ahead of time what the teacher's areas of research and interest are. If you're not aware of them, you're going to fall flat on your face when questions start showing up that are outside the range of the textbook. If my derivation is correct, then teachers are nothing more than functions of their years of experience. What they have studied is what will be on the tests. So then college is not an "institution" the way federal government or standardized tests are an institution. College is way more like a church or business, where there are technical hurdles, such as knowledge and skill, but there's also the relationship between students and teachers, or even better, students, teachers, and the subject matter. As I move up to higher level courses, this relationship seems to play a more important role than the dilligence of the student alone. I never let my schooling interfere with my education. -Mark Twain If that is the case, then the only way I can continue my education and hold my level of self esteem is to leave school for some period of time and continue my journey as an autodidact. At some point in the future, I would return. But I wouldn't even bother to take a class unless I talked to the teacher ahead of time. And if I didn't like their attitude, I wouldn't even bother registering, even if it was a requirement.