Entire Semester of Academic Learning Condensed to Exactly 137 Words

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WASHINGTON — After a grueling semester of systematically putting off readings, faking class discussions, promising themselves they’re going to look at the lecture slides later, and vigorously taking never-looked-at notes, the entire SAIS student body has successfully condensed countless lifetimes of dense, academic, literature into a mere 137 words that will be memorized over the weekend and employed mechanically in final exams and essays across all three campuses.

“When you think of Kenneth Waltz, just remember one word: ‘relative,’” remarked second-year Michael Allen, butchering one of the giants of International Relations theory beyond any meaningful recognition. “It may seem reductive to boil a 63 year academic career, and thousands of pages of blood, sweat, and tears into a single, 8-letter term, but we’ve got finals to pass.”

“The real trick,” added Mr. Allen, “is to surround your 137 heavy-hitting lexemes with enough articles, prepositions, and other grammatical fluff to form complete sentences that the professors and TAs have no choice but to give you credit for. And if you use a contrastive conjunction here or there you’ll really sound like a real expert.”

Practice questions, reviewed during finals study sessions in which all the information of a $6,000 class is crammed into 120 minutes, are constructed by taking random samples of the 137 word, shuffling them repeatedly, and asking students to explain how they relate to one another using sophisticated, graduate level BS. One student’s notes, submitted under the condition that sharing them would improve his future networking prospects, read as follows:

Hegemony then rebalancing.

Multipolarity is stable, but bipolarity is also stable.

Comparative advantage, then tariffs and deadweight loss: Equity?

Dictatorships can be welfare states.

Everything has 3 forms, unless it has a 2×2 box.

Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability (sustainability).

Why am I dedicating two years of my life to this?

Meanwhile, professors look forward to grading hundreds of copies of the same 400-word regurgitation on Fukuyama’s concepts of strength and scope before submitting final grades and starting the whole process over again next semester.

“I just love how the institutions of test-taking and grade inflation, coupled with the information sharing power of the internet, have created a degree program in which every exam is reduced to a ‘strategy’ for evacuating 137 units of meaning that were stored in short-term memory during yesterday’s all-nighter,” remarked CNS professor Matthias Matthijs, reading his statement verbatim off of a power-point projection. “The less real intellectual power we have to spend taking and grading these exams, the more emotional energy we can spend trying to find genuine human emotion and connection in this rarified environment we call ‘the academe.’”

At press time, students debated whether or not the number of necessary words required for this season of finals could be reduced to 136, seeing as nobody takes “culture” all that seriously as a unit of analysis in the world of comparative politics.

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