May 17./ Pursuing College

Tonight, Pensacola feels quiet. The pond near my home is usually loud with croaking frogs and movement. But tonight, it’s calm and the water on the pond is still. Today was a contemplative day and I’ve thought about returning to college.

A few weeks ago, I helped a friend edit a paper that they wrote for one of their classes. Editing came naturally and it felt pleasurable to work through their writing. I don’t, in any way, feel like a fantastic writer – but I do feel comfortable with words.

When I went through high school, I had the opportunity to attend college for my junior and senior year. My experience was not bad but I didn’t have the money to pay for tuition to continue school after graduating high school and I didn’t want to take out student loans.

It was around that time that I read Matthew Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soul Craft. Honestly, I don’t remember very much of the contents; only that I finished the book with the distinct feeling that I didn’t want to pursue school immediately.

After graduating high school, I decided to start working immediately. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and autonomy to start working (instead of delaying full time work for school). It was nice earning money and I moved across the country. I felt independent and I loved that feeling.

A few years later, I noticed that many of my co-workers were going to school. At the time, I didn’t understand it. They were already working in a somewhat well-paying profession. At work, I listened to them complain about writing papers in their free time after they got off.

Many of them attended accelerated colleges that focused on pushing students to graduation rather than developing skills or knowledge. Perhaps this is a limited view because many of them pursued degrees in areas that were different from our career field.

To me, it felt as though the co-workers that attended these accelerated schools and received diplomas did not have any more skill than the next person. In fact, my pessimism largely developed because the co-workers with the highest education seemed to send the e-mails with the most typos, had the most difficulty communicating their ideas verbally, and struggled with basic commands in programs like Excel or PowerPoint.

Perhaps, I’m being too critical. I want to put education on a pedestal and to have it hold real value. I don’t need a certificate to show that I’m knowledgable. I want it to be apparent when I practice the skill I went to school for. To me, formal education isn’t about emulation or rote memorization. I don’t want to be graded on imitating my professor.

It’s possible that part of education is emulation, and I understand that. But I’m uninterested in sitting through a class on writing, learning concepts that the professor values, and then receiving a grade on how well I imitate those concepts. There isn’t creativity there, only replication.

This is the way that I’ve thought for most of the last ten years (since graduating). I’ve felt scornful and sour when other’s have suggested that I attend school. I’ve felt better than others when they graduate but seem to struggle with basic skills like writing. I’ve felt upset that this concept of academia feels corrupt – that there’s a part of me that wants to go and another that scoffs at our education system.

Helping my friend with their paper felt different. It was pleasant to work through their writing and fledge out typos and run-on sentences. It didn’t feel superficial. I really enjoyed it. After we worked through their paper, they got a perfect score. My ego was satisfied.

Today, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about attending a school in-person. I’m not sure what’s changed. It just feels like it’s time to go back to school. I’m not at a point where I know what I want to major in. Some days it’s arboriculture, and other days it’s eastern studies. I’m going to go to school for what I’m interested in – not out of practicality but out of my desire to learn.

I felt compelled to write this experience down. Maybe one day I’ll reflect on it with a new perspective. Anyways, if anyone is reading this, thank you for being here. I’ve disabled comments/likes for the time being.