Posts Tagged 'school'

How The Long Way Around Has Made Me Happy

After a personal philosophy crisis that I timed perfectly with the end of last semester I decided that during the spring semester I would only take four classes. If I valued my sanity and wanted to get my head back into school I knew I could not take the average load of five classes (especially since the classes I signed up for were not going to be easy).

The four classes I signed up for: Code, Culture, and the Postmodern; Women and Modernism (aka Gynomod or The Womb); Aesthetics in Philosophy; U.S. History since 1945. You might not be able to tell from this list of classes but, I am actually a History major. After last semesters stumbling I decided to hell with what I “should” be taking and signed up for classes that sounded interesting and I knew would challenge me. I took a deep breath and plunged into unfamiliar territory.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by shauser

The first few weeks were thrilling and I found myself in that sweet spot of uncomfortable but, not paralyzed (how I love this phrase). I often left classes with what I can only describe as feelings of floating. My brain would be racing, making connections, flying through a myriad of thoughts. This was the most stimulating semester I had ever encountered; this is the learning I had been seeking. Not that everything is perfect, it never is, but I have finally reached a point in my education where I understand deeply that I don’t have to be perfect. Perhaps my acceptance of not being perfect came about because I was taking classes where I knew I would not be perfect, I would not be the most trained or knowledgeable in the classes. This semester has put to test my ability to think, analyze and synthesize because I cannot hide behind what I know or my training as a historian.

Currently we are at the half way point of the semester and I am surprised and delighted to find that the feelings of floating and flying persist. I am beginning to formulate my own theory of aesthetics, wrap my head around modern female writers, and flesh out research for the code and postmodern class. Even at the midway point of the semester I already know it is the forming of my own understanding and framework around these subjects that will be the most rewarding outcome of the semester, not the grade. The funny thing is I don’t really need these classes to graduate in fact I should be doing something about history GPA but, I don’t think I would trade in this semester for being on track. My priorities aren’t perfect but, when the joy of learning sings its siren song how can anyone resist it? I know I can’t. In the long run I know what I actually learned, not how long it took me to reach some arbitrary finish line, will be of real value and I believe I will be a better person because of it.

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Dividual Learner

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Rob Shenk

A few days ago while sitting in my anthropology class, taking notes, I was struck by my professor’s description of how the Melanesians understand the person. In Melanesian culture people do not view themselves as individual but, dividual. For example, if an uncle brought food to your mother while you were in the womb then he is a part of you for the nourishment he brought to sustain your development. This idea goes beyond the genetics and even blood relations. To Melanesians a person is formed through the work and effort of people to nourish and develop a person. Like that favorite American saying, “It takes a village”.

What if we viewed learning as such an adventure? What if we went beyond learning to be better than the other students in our class?
Shifting our view of learning could very well change the way we approach many other aspects of our life. The educational system encourages a competitive solo journey and places emphasis on the individual more than anything. I’m not trying to say competition is bad but the danger is the isolating effects that can produce a “Us vs Them” mentality that pervades our thinking (do I have to really point out examples?).

We no longer live in small societies where the work of one person can make a difference. In these small societies it would be in your best interest to make sure your friend knew how to do a craft just as well as you if you wanted to be able to sleep in a safe shelter or eat dinner. Putting in time and effort to teaching someone meant that your quality of life would probably be increased too.

Today we live in an industrialized nation, we no longer inhabit small isolated villages. This change obscures how the actions of one person may not only benefit another but ultimately how your investment in one person will be repaid to you in one way or another. I’m not calling for a Thoreau-esque return to the woods but, I do think industrialized nations have fallen into the trap that allows the way we do our business and commerce to effect other aspects of our life, especially schooling.

This is another one of those posts that touches on such grand problems that they could not possibly be solved in a blog post. I’m more frustrated then anything with the way we teach students and at times the problem seems so large and monolithic I don’t see how we could ever get around it. Maybe acknowledging the problem is the first step towards change and the more people we get thinking about these issues the more likely things will change.

Or maybe I am just a dreamer.


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