It’s a beautiful rainy Sunday here. Just the kind of day I like. Rain clouds tend to bring out the green shades of nature, which are gorgeous backdrops against the multitude of brightly colored spring flowers. My mood is always lifted when it rains. It ‘s as if my soul is being cleansed. I’m between classes right now; the spring semester is over and my next summer course starts in a week. Between the rain and my freedom from school, I’m in a relaxed and contemplative mood.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my education lately. So much of what excited me in the previously is now draining me of enthusiasm. In the past I looked forward to exploring new ideas and writing essays on my discoveries. I was one of those students who could sit down and write a 10-page paper in just a few short hours. All of my papers earned praise and delight from my professors; they appreciated my written attempts to dive deep into the subject matter. I always thought long and hard before I wrote and often wrestled with my subject in order to pin down my thoughts and feelings for it. I really felt like I was developing as a critical thinker, and by the time I graduated, I felt as if I matured into a whole new person. I looked forward with anticipation to graduate school. Who would I be when this was finished?
I was a little apprehensive about grad school (I have spoken about this before) because I pictured more demanding professors who, with red pen in hand, would rip apart anything I wrote, challenging me to think deeper. The graduate’s handbook warned of expecting As. “It is not about the grade, it is about the journey. This is a time of learning new skills, not showing off the ones you already have”. Intimating yes, but completely within the bounds of higher education. Okay, I told myself, forget about being an A student, just make sure you do your best and push yourself to new limits!
What I didn’t’ expect was to be handed material from absent professors, who it seems, have no interest is pushing a student to do anything! Out of the four classes I have taken, two (which is half, yeah a humanities major can do math) have consisted of written lectures and Youtube videos. We students were expected to read then write essays answering canned questions posed to fill up paper space, not to push us to think deeply about the subject at hand. This is not helping me become a master of anything- well maybe bullshit if this keeps up- I can’t believe I am paying for this!
Earning a masters in humanities is a lot like being a critical reader and blogger. By comparison, blogging critically about books and current events may be more effective than earning a masters. As bloggers we are passionate about what we choose to read and write about, and try hard to make sure our thoughts are well crafted so our target audience continues to read our work. We encourage, nay, need feedback so that we may start open discussions. It is our hope that our words foster new ideas within in our small community.
Last May, I found myself missing school so I did a series of blog posts titled “A Course, a Course, my Kingdom for a Course! The series was my attempt at self-education. I wrote a Shakespeare course syllabus and set out reading and watching nothing but Shakespeare for two months. My hope was that by the end of the two months, I would have a better understanding of the man and his work. It’s too bad I couldn’t do this for two years and then show my work to a University and be handed a master’s in Shakespeare.
If I could hand out masters in literature I would give the first one to Ben over at Benreadsalot. This is man who, for the love of the experience, is reading and critically blogging about it. He is doing more than just reading and writing; he is exploring the world of literature and writing about his experiences. You could not ask for a better student than Ben. He not only expresses himself well, you see how literature is affecting his worldview.
I have come across many bloggers like Ben. Bloggers who allow literature to seep in and enrich their lives. All of these people, knowingly or unknowing, are earning their own masters and experiencing higher education on a very personal level. I marvel at them all.
I want to teach at the college level, so for now I will continue on the path of traditional education, though when I do teach, you can be damn sure I will not be an absent instructor. If you take one of my classes be prepared to think critically and prepare yourselves to be transformed by what you read. And if school is not for you, take heart, you are probably on your way to a masters without having to stress over midterm and final papers. Lucky you!