Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Discussion Education I: Learning to Listen

"The individual is all you ever have and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures."

I have my degree in writing, but because I switched into the major my last year in college, I don’t like to say I studied writing, mainly, I spent college studying Rilke, the little waterfall nearby, and the direction of my own life, which changed even more often than my major. Academically, I started out in Theology, added philosophy, then dropped them both for humanities, which I quickly lost interest in when I learned the program called for commitment. I considered History, but didn’t want the required economics course. My longest stint was a year and most of a semester in classical languages, but my own personal drama and my tendency to skip classes caught up with me junior year - I realized too late that the professor’s rule of dropping a letter grade for every 3  missed classes brought me down to, at best, a C. And then I forgot how to spell ‘led’. Not the Latin, not the Greek, the English. A huge part of the quiz involved a randomly chosen word, translated in all it’s forms. At first I was thrilled, to lead, simple, basic, and then I blanked. All I could think of was lead (the metal), which is the same as lead (present tense ‘to lead’). He has lead, he lead, they used to lead..I tried explaining the next day, because during class I couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong in my mind. I dropped Classics after that semester, no one can take a Classics degree with a C in Latin.

   Senior year I lived in a rush, the only class apart from writing and Literature I took was Political Philosophy. It was supposed to be a mental break, but my professor was a monarchist who hated Libertarian, and I was a libertarian who failed miserably in controlling her reactions, we didn’t get along. I loved the English program though! I spent the whole year wondering why I hadn’t started this sooner. I learned to edit, and to write papers in advance. I learned self-discipline, and a little humility. The writing program was good for me.

    Like most people who study writing, I learned that writing can only be taught up to a certain extent. Beyond that, the writer needs something else, something not taught, but given. We’re very passionate about education in America, we like the idea of everyone going to college. But, while I do think college can be helpful, it can also be in the way of developing as a writer. Flannery O' Connor reminds us that "there's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." A bad teacher can form a writer in all manner of vices, and the best way to learn writing, through extensive reading, is something we can all do outside of university. I'm not against education, I just prefer not to see it idealized. A while ago in this conversation, Jenna referred to this as a very educated society, and I guess, thinking it over, that we are. But what does that education really mean, what does it bring to us as individuals? Next week I want to begin delve into words  like educated, literate, intellectual, and scholar, primarily as they relate to us as writers, but this week, I just want to open up the topic a bit for your thoughts.


  1. Mmm... fascinating question! It'll give me a chance to write more intelligently about college than I have in the past. Seeing as how I never went, we'll see what I can come up with. :)

    I definitely agree with you that college can be helpful or it can get in the way. And that it can be good, but shouldn't be idealized.

  2. You were a little flaky in the major choosing department..I was so relieved when you got over the theology and humanities stages. I really didn't want to room with a theology major. I liked the languages stage, but you were happier and more fun with English. You should post your "stawberries" poem sometime.

  3. ..nobody wants to room with a theology major. ;)

  4. Hey, I think I have some letters from your "forgot how to spell 'led'" phase!

    monarchists in the academy, huh.

  5. Wait, you learned to edit?
    -The Neglected Husband

  6. Not me, I knew exactly what I was going in for: English Writing (which was like our school's version of a Literature degree with a creative writing specialization because that was all they offered). I felt like C.S. Lewis must have when his teacher wrote to his father that he would make a writer out of him, or an academic, and nothing else!

    I think, though, if had been offered, I might have hesitated over Classics. And I probably should have learned a bit of Latin for the Arthurian Lit., but I could get by without it, so did!

    More extensive reply regarding education at Jenna's.

  7. I loved your long reply in Jenna's post. You both made me take a bit of a tangent in the discussion, I hope there's someting fresh to respond to this week.

    It's so interesting reading about other peoples experiences in the world..