Tuesday, September 23, 2008

B.M.O.C. and talkin' about college

B.M.O.C. stands for Big Man on Campus. a term that came floating back to me from who knows where.

Los Angeles readers note there is a big rally for women/Obama being organized for Sunday Oct. 5 in Westwood at the Federal Building. I've gotten a couple of emails about it, though details still vague.

Blog friend awanderer is in college and ambivalent about staying there. Here are some thoughts in no particular order. Maybe you have some too.

What's great about college is you have these years to explore and learn things which may take you in unexpected directions, and if you're lucky you'll have teachers who will guide you to these unexpected places. You can reach a depth in your thinking and exploration that may not be available to you at any other time in your life.

For many fields degrees matter so you have no choice if you're looking to be a doctor, lawyer, or professor yourself. In the creative fields I found people were rarely queried about background, rather it was whether you fit into the field that was there, and whether you had talent enthusiasm and no snotty attitude.

Suits jobs are where they really care what school you went to, not whether you're actually competent and motivated or not.

It used to be the Ivy League schools were functioning as a social sifting as well, but that's really changed. So parents in the past strived for their children to get into those schools, figuring that's where they'd pick up their friends and partners for life.

Sometimes you can make a mistake and think, "Oh what's the point of learning this? When will I ever use this in life? I want to get out of here." Think it slowly and carefully.

I found I even used ALGEBRA in animation. I graduated in 3 1/2 years. I couldn't wait to get out.

I think with the Internet, google, digital dialog, it's more possible than before to really educate yourself independently. I also think it's foolish to imagine everyone should be going to college.

When I was at Smith education standards were swinging wild and free, and you could really write your own curriculum almost from Freshman year. Thus I never learned things I couldn't quite understand, because I chose not to study them. History for instance. Or electricity. I didn't take a single history class. Later I discovered I loved reading about Western history.

I remember my last year at Smith I knew of a guy who was doing independent study at Yale, studying television. He watched tv all day. He didn't even have to write about it.


A Wanderer said...

Wow Sally, I figured you forgot about this.
I definitely agree college does present ones with some unique opportunities, but in my own experience I haven't come across much yet. I spent the first two years at Nowheresville Community College, I'm now at Ohio University. I'm a bit more hopeful I'll get something more out of my experience here. It is a very interesting place to say the least. A bastion of still thriving hippie-dom.

My only semi-definitive career goals in life are writing (both fiction and non-fiction in the philosophical, rambling, disorganized, semi-stream of consciousness way) and cleaning. By cleaning I mean being a janitor. I currently am a janitor and hope to continue being one. I really enjoy it. I'm a weirdo.

(That TV-independent study guy is lucky. A guy I'm taking a film class with now is majoring in "pop culture" which he invented for himself.)

I am much more the independent study type. I have a certain degree of talent, or at least competence, in writing and philosophy that I simply don't have in math or science. I resented being forced to take those things in grade school and high school, and I resent being forced to take them as generals now. In my senior year of high school I resented the fact that none of my classes did anything, but I ended up looking back on that year fondly. With nothing else to do (except in one single English class that still functioned as an actual class and not just a place to hang out while the teacher played Solitare or did drills with her cheer-leading team during class) I ended up having time to do a huge amount of reading. I got through a ton of Kierkegaard, among others, and started writing some things I'm still working on today. Degree or no degree in anything, that stuff stays a priority. I did have one philosophy professor at my old school who really liked my work (he's really the only one who's seen it, as I didn't have any other philosophy classes). That gave me a bit of a needed boost in self esteem.

As far as my staying in college goes, I guess I leave it up (really, I've felt this way since I started two years ago, but I always gripe afresh about it when a new year starts and I get sour over all of the time-wasting that unavoidably happens) to how I actually do. I felt pretty sure in the past two years my science classes would ruin me. The lowest I got in the past two years was a C. I got all-A's-except-a-B in every other semester semester and when I transferred to OU that earned me a scholarship. So I guess I'm not doing that bad. But it certainly doesn't bring me much joy, or hasn't yet, and often just doesn't feel worth it to me somehow. Anyway, I'll continue my previous philosophy: keep going, grin and bear it, until I just absolutely screw something up and fail. If that happens, I don't know. If it doesn't, then hopefully I'll come out of this with a creative writing degree.

And as for algebra...I imagine if I ever find myself doing something that requires it...I'll probably do something else!

Anyway, thanks for your sharing your thoughts, Sally. I appreciate the food-for-thought.

A Wanderer said...

(Longest post ever. But I felt the need to reply in kind!)

stray g said...

Actually I wonder about going back for another degree; it sounds exciting to learn and get credentials to do something new.... just mulling it over.

Linda said...

College for me was a time of learning to live "away from home." I created my own independent degree (drawing, philosophy, creative writing, Russian lit) in order to avoid history courses too. I had to take one, though, so I took a Russian history class. My teacher let me make borscht for class in lieu of taking the final exam, which Tom made. (I had met Tom in drawing class.) I never would have seen Quasi at the Quackadero if I hadn't gone to college, that's the main thing. After college, I had no idea what to do. So I went to the mall one day and got a job at a bookstore. That's where I met Katy.

stray g said...

Linda's right: college taught me to live away from home and separate from just accepting my parents' views on everything. I started the first year in a design-your-degree program, but it required a thesis, and I wasn't very focused, so I changed to a BFA where I could take lots of art classes, which I enjoyed, and made a beeline to a degree in four years. But now I wish I'd been willing to take some chances on learning different types of things even if I wasn't great at them, while I had that time to explore. The university was in the same town as the company where Linda worked. I got an internship there right before graduation and met Linda, who taught me lots about design.

Namowal said...

I agree with Linda and Stray g here- I found college to be a great launching pad for living on my own. I remember standing in some orientation line thinking what the heck am I doing here? These doubts gave way to Hey, this is fun. I eat/sleep/shop/have fun where and when I want to!
I too was surprised by some classes. I thought it was insane that I had to take a linguistics class, and ended up loving it and getting an A+. A placement test for a required math course claimed I was so stupid that I wasn't even ready for the non credit "Dummy" class. I signed up for the credit class anyway. It took me longer than everyone else to take the final, but I still got a B.
Lessons learned- try new things, difficult doesn't mean impossible, and don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do.

Sally said...

So interesting to read everyone's comments here.

I wonder if, in the future, there will be more of a divide between the tactile and the virtual world jobs.

So a plumber or electrician might be paid a great deal more than one might imagine now because no one will know how to do anything that's not related to computer input.

Linda, stray g, namowal, did anyone ever ask you for college records before employing you?

stray g, what would you study now?

I didn't like college life, so that must color my responses.

stray g said...

I have wondered off an on for 20 years about an MFA (so I could teach) in either graphic design or painting and drawing or a master's in art therapy (so I could do I'm not sure what! facilitate artmaking for people working through physical or mental illness or just trying to learn about themselves...). But I'm not a patient person, and it would be expensive, etc., etc. Just wanting a new project or challenge right now and to be around creative people.

stray g said...

About hiring: I probably had to fill out an application just stating what my education was, but I don't think anyone looked at a transcript or anything! It gets down to whether they like your work and personality.

Namowal said...

Hi Sally,
I believe they needed my school records for hiring me when I taught school, but they required all sorts of silly paperwork and forms.
My visual effects jobs just wanted a look at my demo reel.
I think you're right about electricians and plumbers getting paid more than computer people. Not just for their knowledge, but because jobs like that can't go overseas.

A Wanderer said...

Thanks also for all your thoughts here, everybody.

A few replies to some of the points made in no particular order: both my old school and Ohio U are within driving distance of my Old Ohio Home, so there's no thrill-of-independence for me. To be honest I don't particularly want it. I'm not very social. I like my friends in small groups, and when I want company I generally prefer one or two people at a time. Larger groups annoy me, usually. As far as getting out more in general, my parents probably encourage it more than I actually want it. My parents and I get along very well. No problem with accepting-my-parents views-on-everything either. I'm lucky.

Namowal, when it comes to the eat/sleep/shop when I want, I suppose I already have that. As far as moving out, for me anyway, it just seems like what I already have now but with rent and probably less concentration for my writing.

Linda, it's odd: I wouldn't have found out about Quasi at the Quackadero is it wasn't for a bookstore in a mall!
I wouldn't have SEEN it if it wasn't for Youtube/the internet.

Sally, that's a really interesting point about the tactile/virtual job divide...
It's funny. I like to, or feel compelled to write, but I hate doing it in a forced, structured way (thesis statements about subject I don't care about, etc). I don't generally like the idea of "thinking" work at all, though my favorite past-times are reading, writing, and philosophizing. When it comes to actual work, I prefer it mindless and repetitive.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, everybody. I like to get a lot of "second opinions" especially with a big subject like this.
Now I'm going to shut up before I write another novel on the comments page! (Or have I already?)

A Wanderer said...

Yep. (D'oh!)