Gail (gailmarie) wrote,

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I'm not happy, but I'm not unhappy about it.

I've been thinking a lot about eduction in my final year of academic instruction. For alas, while my thesis advisor assures me that I should continue on to grad school (and that I would be successful there), and I assure her that I shall, in the future, do just that...there is always the possibility that this is it. My last 29 days of school ever.

So I've become introspective about the entirety of learning and the experience of it.

I have adored it. Even when I hated school, there was nothing else I'd rather be doing. It's why I haven't missed more that one class in the past three semesters combined. I haven't missed any this year at all. I tell those who don't understand the love of learning (my roommates included) that "I'm paying for it, so I may as well go."

The truth is, even when it's a wretched class that I absolutely can't stand, I try to find some redeeming quality. Or at the very least, take the new knowledge about which I care so little and store it away so I can recall it at some opportune moment in the future (it's a running joke in my art history classes that the small tidbits we learn off the curriculum are good for cocktail parties).

And I have been fairly happy with the status of my education. I couldn't have asked for a better high school experience, especially considering it was a public school. The education in Florida is so ridiculously bad that it has encouraged me to thank my lucky stars nearly every day of the past three years. One of my roommates excitedly said to me last week: "you should be proud of me, I wrote a really good two-page paper." It was hard for her. In the same week, I wrote a 6-page paper, 13 pages of my thesis, and an 8-page paper. If that doesn't inspire undying gratitude of Deerfield High School, I don't know what does.

But I just finished watching The History Boys, and a repeated comment was that there was "no time," meant in the sense that they were too busy memorizing facts and quotes and finding a systematic way to regurgitate them, to take time to actually read, or for the unstructured learning of their "General Studies" course. Even when presented with a new way of thinking, they merely put these different ideas into the same equation, coming out successful academically. But in the end, it was only the boy who embraces the content of the General Studies (aka, the one who thinks outside the box, doesn't fall victim to the established method) who truly comes out on top.

A bit of a tangent, but I (and I assume most others who passed through school easily) have made an occupation out of memorization and systematic regurgitation of those facts. But recently, I have been feeling an overwhelming disquietude over such an artificial approach to this revered object of "education." And perhaps there is no way to really escape from a systematized approach.

You see, lately, I've been taking it upon myself to advance my learning by pushing myself to work harder and think more analytically. It started last semester when my Women In Film class, while interesting, lacked a certain legitimacy. Frankly, we never discussed feminist theory, barely talked about what it means to have a female director behind the camera, and mostly focused on the plot of films that followed a female protagonist. Every week, we were given a writing prompt (to be no longer than one page, double spaced), that essentially synthesized the angle the film we had watched took on "women." While the response could have been fairly general and taken entirely from class discussion, I challenged myself to think outside the box and find a less-obvious answer than what I assumed everyone else was writing. It was a test of my thinking abilities, as well as my ability to write concisely (one-page assignments are really difficult). I didn't really care what my professor thought of my work, I was proud of what I was accomplishing.

This semester, I have striven to do the same thing. Again, my film class has weekly prompts, and I try to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. I feel I have benefited a broader understanding of the films, themes, and cultural events on which we focus. And in my Art Theory and Criticism class, in which we are encouraged to think, I tried to push myself in every assignment to find something new or a different focus. I'm tired of regurgitating, and I'm guessing professors are tired of reading the same thing (another theme in The History Boys).

Just yesterday, we watched Halloween (the 1978 John Carpenter version, of course), in American Film. And in my Theory and Crit class, we have been discussing Deconstructionism. So for fun, I decided to jot down some ideas I had about how Halloween fits into Deconstructionism. I think I may be taking Derrida's theory a bit too literally, but I think the point could be validly made, and a paper written on the topic. I never will because it is irrelevant to both the film and art class, and my analysis will never go farther than occupying a page in my notebook, but it doesn't matter, because I tried something out and even if it wasn't a total success, it worked well enough. If nothing else, I used my mind for something.

So here I am. 29 days left, a brain itching to do think and analyze and research, and no way to occupy it. I'm hoping to find a job that will at least stimulate parts, but what are the chances? For one, I've barely started looking (finding it utterly disheartening the last two times I tried), and two, even if I get an awesome job or internship or program, who's to say that I'll be really using my brain. Does anyone out there? Anyone who's gone beyond the world of academia actually think critically about anything? Or is this it? My final month of absorbing as much as I can before all goes pear-shaped and my mind is lost forever in a sea of monotony.

In perhaps a similar and related note, I have had the overwhelming urge to speak French recently. I use it quite often, to be honest. Usually for small phrases or when drunk. But I've just had this yearning recently to actually pick it up again and use it practically.
Tags: academics, art, film, francais, school, theory/criticism

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