Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rant about education

I have 4 stories in the wild, chilling in electronic slush piles. This is not a huge number, but it's the most I've ever had out at once. That's progress.

My previous submission pattern was to send one out at a time. I found, however, that rejection is a lot more crushing when there's no other hope hiding in the bushes. And since each submission usually takes 2 to 6 months to hear back -- if you're lucky -- it sucks to keep starting the process all over again.

Now I will take a page from personal finance and "CD ladder" my stories. "Dollar cost average" my submissions into the jury pool.

I'm out of metaphors.

"Leverage" my distraction. Is that one?

Anyway. I finished Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," and it was excellent. Humbling. I am about halfway through "Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson" and it is also fascinating. (Advertising note, if you buy through the Amazon links I get a commission)

There is so much more to Jackson than "The Lottery."

In retrospect, I probably should have taken at least one English class in college so I would know about Jackson already, but I just couldn't stand it. I hated the papers. I hated coming up with lame thesis statments. I hated the forced discussion. The only thing I liked was reading aloud, which I took as a sign I should major in drama. So I did.

Not until I recently learned about rhetoric did I begin to understand the importance of a thesis statement. They should have just taught us rhetoric basics instead of giving us a worksheet with all those tricks.

I am in the mess I'm in today because it's easier for educators to teach tricks rather than fundamentals. Honestly, this is why I sucked at physics. I am brilliant at the math, but I couldn't tell you WHY I was doing anything. I became frustrated and stopped paying attention. I did well in class because you can just parrot what the teacher wants you to do, but the moment I had to APPLY what I learned I was lost. Oh and news flash. You can't fake your way through chemistry, either.

My brain is full of shortcuts latticed over hot air. No substance!

This is not to say my teachers were awful. On the contrary, I was lucky to have some wonderful teachers. I am saying there's something inherently wrong with a system that encourages shortcuts and tricks, to "fake it 'til we make it." I acknowlege my teachers probably did the best they could within the system.

Since this is my blog I have the luxury of pointing out problems without providing solutions. I do have some ideas... finding ways to connect ideas across different disciplines would be a good start. History and biology hardly ever intersected in my classes, for example. You could even teach a fellow like Darwin across history, biology, and English. How does war or the state of the economy affect art and literature? Can you understand "The Great Gatsby" without knowing about the roaring 20's?

We spend the present in a connected world, where we are exposed to everything all at once. We understand the context immediately. But we are taught in a silo'ed world of rigid categories. Academic disciplines don't exist in a vacuum. They influence each other and until we reunite and connect ideas between them education will continue to be a superficial exercise.

I do not believe critical thinking is possible until we master the fundamentals across disciplines.

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