Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Smarter every day

If you recall last week and the On Breadth posting (hmmm, how d'ya link back to old posts? I guess you can scroll down til I figure it out, right?), this is the followup that I promised. There was tonnes of interest, both here and on Facebook (I returned from Scarborough to find 30+ posts there.) In the end, there weren't too many who were for undergrad super-specialization, but the idea of forced intro lectures (Rocks for Jocks, anyone?) appealed to nigh on none.

There was also a strong contingent for taking high-level courses in what you truly love and have aptitude for, and learning about less-consuming interests on your own, because who says you need an academic credit to care about and understand art, say, or horticulture, or whatever floats your boat. True that--autodidacts are as smart as anyone else, and save a lot on tuition.

It was all way better phrased by others, but that's my summation. And now more about me:

I'm an auditory learner! Thrilled to know that, aren't you? What that means is that my learning style works best when information is offered verbally, with a chance to absorb, query and confirm in interaction with the teacher. In other words, I am a classroom learner! According to a corporate seminar that I took, only about 3% of the population is actually predisposed to learn in this way (the irony of telling us in a classroom that most of us couldn't learn well in a classroom was lost on nearly everyone involved) (please take statistics I offer from vague memories of corporate seminars three years ago with a grain of salt). I'm sure anyone can guess that people who learn best through visuals, text, experience, etc. make up most of the rest of the population.

Lucky me? Absolutely. I got a lot out of those breadth requirements, stats, Art of Listening (why else would I know the dirty secrets of Bolero?), all of it. I do try to recognize, though, that despite the amazing coincidence between my way of learning and the main way offered in society, it is not necessarily the best way. I can be a little unquestioning if something comes to me via a "source of authority." In fact, a lot gets by me if you just say it with confidence. Nothing I hate more than listening raptly to a whole explanation of new medical technology or why an author is a hack, then finding out that the speaker only saw half a documentary, or read the review and not the book. It's really hard to deprogram myself once I've already accepted the info as fact.

This voice of authority thing, though, is I think what keeps people beating their heads on the walls of the academe when their strengths lie elsewhere. Much as I love it here, it's really not the best way, or the only way. I've seen people waste a lot of energy, talent and self-esteem trying to write academic papers on topics they'd be far more brilliant at approaching in some other way. Some people I know who can write brilliant poetry can't analyze poetry, and just because you can fix a machine doesn't mean you have memorized the component parts of all machines.

Wow, it'd be great if I had a point to boil it all down to right around now, wouldn't it? Something about how I think "universities as the universal and exclusive path to intelligence, joy and success" is really limiting, I think. Also something about complaining about how much you hate the ivory tower from within the ivory tower is silly, too. Maybe I'm feeling sad because I'm graduating, but I sort of think I was lucky to have the opportunity to do something that suited me so well the last two years. Problems with the system, lord yes, but, heck, no one forced me to do it. And it was really a good time, there, for a while.

My life has not changed noticeably since last week, when I was still technically a student, but it feels different...less learning-y. I took a bunch of books out of the library, and pledged to write in companionable silence with Em tomorrow, so I plan on feeling better shortly.

Everybody knows / these are rock-hard times

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