Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Escaping the box, breaking the mold, ...

...leaving the rat race, taking the road less travelled, following a different drummer, keeping all your pencils in one cup on your desk...

Okay, the last phrase was from a Mad TV skit years ago and probably doesn't fit.  The penultimate one might be miswritten (and this is the first time I have used "penultimate"- hooray!).

I am writing today about a young adult who has turned away from expectations and has chosen to quit university.

I cannot decide, and neither can the commenters at the link, if the woman was wise to quit or lazy; is she making a bold stand or thoughtlessly removing the safety net while on the high-wire of life?

This is my story, but it is not only my story. For 25 years I have been run like a horse on a racetrack. Like a champion horse, I was happy to leave my less-accomplished friends in the dust. I was unhappy when a friend did better than me. Living that way I gained admission to a "top school".
But strange. Not matter how hard I pushed myself my strength ebbed away and my heart had no more. Right now I'm standing stockstill, considering the racetrack. Where does it end? Seems to me it just gives you the qualification to enter the second gate, "getting a job". We just get onto a new racetrack where your qualification is ahead of mine, someone else's is behind mine, and we all compete for new ones. That's what I've realized. What I've been chasing after is nothing but an endless track. A track where you can never reach a plateau.

Elsewhere, she describes universities as 'qualification sellers', which fits in my situation.  I am an ESL teacher in South Korea and my degrees are in Biology and Recreation Studies.  To work as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you need a degree; any degree will do.

Commenter Cory Weaver is supportive:

If people really questioned the education system, their value of their education would be much greater (I didn't realize this until my last year of college). We wouldn't be excited to have an "easy class," or thrilled when our professor lets us out 30 minutes early. We'd realize we were getting ripped off. We'd also be more involved and invested. We would question the value of the "test", and the "homework". We'd be excited to learn, and question if this is the best way to learn...

To say, "this is life, it's hard. Deal with it." is BS, because it doesn't have to be...

Hee-jin says:
...a lot of students make the most out of their 4 years by creating artistic groups and try to get involved in the school life. I guess, it depends on the person, but you don't have to become a product when you go to these universities, just get the most out of it: in her case have the opportunity to have a great school name on her CV, but if there's something else she wants to reach for, she should use the school to attain it.
I like Hee-jin's response and have seen many clubs with diverse goals at universities.  Without knowing the full situation of the author, I can only really comment on my own experience at university. There were students who pushed for better teaching and different or specific material to be taught.  There were also clubs and events that helped personalize education.  At university, one lecturer spent one hour talking about modern transportation systems and their problems and from that point I began reading and studying the subject on my own.  It has not been an area that is likely to turn profitable for me, but I still find it fascinating.

Still, university really is overrated in Korea.  I suspect a large percentage of home-makers have university degrees.  I guess this is something for them to fall back on in times of trouble, but also somewhat of a waste of three or more years.
NOTE: I used the word 'homemaker' above - I guess it could be a description of males and females, but typically it is for females.  This is simply the first example that I thought of and I do not want to get into an argument about females and education - this is not my goal at all.  I should repeat, in my defense, that I am not using the education I worked somewhat hard for -in Biology- in my current work.
Artists can and do go to university and I can, as a complete outsider, sorta' see why.  It makes sense for a painter to understand something of the history of painting, for example.  Still, it is not completely required.  Being a professional artist is something like being an entrepreneur, you are working to do something others haven't.  I really don't see how university can prepare you for that.

I hope the young lady finds her way.  At the same time, I hope I do, too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

creative writing exercises

Kottke has a video showcasing  a creative writing class that had an unusually controversial prompt or starting scenario.