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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Alas

You know at 41, having been on the internet since 1988, you would think that I would have it all down. Yet I couldn't log in to the PeerCentered blog, since I confused my Google account with it and for some reason just didn't "get" that I had to ask Clint nicely to be included. This is a perfect segue into talking about those exasperating moments when you think you know things like the back of your hand, and then you look down and discover your hand has aged twenty years when you weren't paying attention, and now appears to have carpal tunnel and some kind of spotty dry skin. Aargh.

I'm in the 303 class with the most delightful people, struggling over stupid personal problems that I know intellectually are not the baggage of a twenty something and don't need to be carted into an environment primarily populated with twenty somethings. I found myself crankily spouting some cynical ideas about the educational system and how we simply can't cater to everyone as though every person at college level somehow "deserves" to be there and "deserves" to get good grades simply because they want them.

I have made a rough peace with the establishment over the years; go on and call me a radical intellectual if you like that term. I can handle that. I've thought long and hard about what it means to pay to go to college and find out that in many circumstances grades are meaningless and I'm just paying more or less for a diploma. I have learned to pursue my teachers like a hound dog to get the most out of my education, because I want my time and money's worth, too. I have an ESL husband and I've watched him go nakedly through school, learning to deal with "the man" and "the system" on many levels. I decided to go back to school because I love learning and I want the paycheck that comes with the diploma, and I like to navigate the syllabuses and quirks of my professors as part of the game. Like participating in any competitive sports event, I put my mind towards winning and force the body to follow, because I believe more or less in the rhetoric of the current zeitgeist's educational system. I do what I have to do to survive and succeed.

I am stumped and ashamed when I realize that for many of my peers, these are still the radical years, where you question all authority all the time. My peers are still deciding what's ethical and what's appropriate and how to deal with "the man" and "the system" and wondering if they should encourage others to fight the power. They haven't become exhausted from constant war, and haven't learned to pick their battles.

I am saying to myself: here we are in this nifty year 2008 where everyone has free, unlimited outlets for their creativity: the internet, 'zines, music, poetry.... Why should you get all hung up on whether or not you can't be creative in your college essays, when essentially it's just part of the hoops you jump through to demonstrate you can jump through hoops (and theoretically land yourself a job on the other side)? Why not simply smile at your classmates and say "Subversive is as subversive does. Write the essay the way your prof wants it, and then post a snarky version on your blog!" or "Use the lingo to your advantage - make it look technically perfect, but turn the arguments to your advantage, use excellent logic, and make your professor concede to your point whether or not he/she likes it." Why fight about the logic of irritating, exacting, particular-style-loving profs, don't you realize this is just a taste of what work is like in the real world?

I feel old and grumpy. I'm tired of a lot of the jargon that's new for my classmates and afraid of some of the "old stuff" that I don't know as well as I think I do (save me, Martha Kolln!) and worried that what I perceive as friendly shyness will come off as weird and inappropriate to my age. Alas, I have thought about these issues without actually doing anything about them for a long, long time.

6 comments:

  1. As a reader, your post really says one thing to me: Your education is what you make of it. Yes, you have some other tangents and side points, and you touch on really good points about hoops and who really deserves and education, but the message I am taking away is that you make what you want out of your time in class. As you pointed out, you hound your teachers for more, you drive your own thinking and learning.
    The radical idea I see that you are aware of the cause and effect in education, and, I would hazard by some of the side notes, life. You have this strange and bizarre notion that our actions should, and do, make us who we are.

    So that is just one tired consultants reading. In the event I am really just babbling on, just tell me to be quite. I might listen.

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  2. I am still not sure how my picture migrated between pbwiki and blogger.

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  3. Is that a good strange and bizarre notion, or a bad one? :)

    I can definitely see where reading this might give you the "actions should and do make us who we are" idea. Poor decision making and choices have led me on a circuitous route, yet I've still ended up where I wanted to be. Finding satisfaction in work, school, and life has been partly a willingness to say "oops" "darn" or some harder expletive, and do something about my circumstances. I think it's the most valuable lesson I have to offer anyone. Be emotional, act logically, take agency.

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  4. When I was under 25, I used to view any one older than 25ish as tired and uncaring, and used to think they'd just given up. But now that I'm older, I tend think anyone under 25ish is really misguided and wasting valuable time. I don't know, I guess it's all perspective. Sure, there has to be some sort of a standard, but doesn't part of your college education include exploration and self discovery. Isn't that what all the core classes and such are about? And I wonder how much access we should deny to enriching people's lives through education? Yes, I believe in standards, and I think it is up to the individual to meet those standards or not. But I think that value in education is what you get out of it rather than the sale-ability of it in the free market. Employers are always going to value one degree more than another, regardless of what that deree has done for the student personally. I say good for you that you are trying to get as much as possible out of your education. In the end I think it will reward you as a person, and I think that's what truly counts.

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  5. It is tough returning to school, later in your life. You've developed your own way of handling things, viewing the education system, and viewing yourself within this odd, uncertain thing called life.

    All of the sudden, you're supposed to conform to something that may or may not be 'you.' You can, however, be yourself within this box called education, and, it seems to me, that you're doing that--or at least acknowledging that it's something that you, personally, need to deal with.

    Throw this struggle into the writing center area, where there are students, papers, and assignments derived from this "system," which you're not yet comfortable with, and you find yourself dealing with this internal struggle faster than anticipated.

    Personally, I think you should enjoy this struggle, while it's a big one. There are many writers that come into the center who are dealing with identity issues, that may or may not be similar to yours, but if you help them with what they really desire help with, you may be helping yourself in the process.

    ...rambling thoughts here, sorry.

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  6. I like the cat picture, Zach! Maybe it's just trying to find it's way back home, or something...

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