2010 Guardian Study Guide (UCSD’s The Guardian)

One of the worst things ever invented — clocking in just after Furbies, but before fist-pumping bros — are three-hour classes. After sitting through five grueling courses, I know firsthand how tedious they can be. It takes a special kind of charm to make these gabfests into something students bother attending, but for sociology professor John Skrentny, it’s just another day at the office.

The cards seem to be stacked against him: a three-hour class that runs into the evening, lectures on the sociological nuances of law and a massive room that makes sleeping both inconspicuous and ideal. Instead, the man turned water into wine — he gestured, he chuckled, he paced, he joked. Skrentny’s teaching style is based on the Pied Piper, leading his students to their ideological destination before they even realize they’re following. Skrentny spends class time telling funny stories about his childhood, asking for students’ opinions on current sociological matters and discussing the facets of law. The man has turned teaching into a performance art.

Plenty of people will tell you his classes are easy and — true enough — it is possible to scrape by with minimal studying, which is a testament to his ability to make a complex concept seem simple. Soon, you’ll forget you’ve been watching the Piper play for the past few hours, paralyzed by his teaching finesse and ready to follow his analysis.

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