Epiphanies

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Neha is writing again on her weblog. Nice to see.

But how about some debate on the issue she raises here and treated throughout this post:

It’s been a year since I’ve graduated, and for an entire plethora of reasons, my plans to head to grad school as a freshly scrubbed graduate ended up buried deep, deep under the sea. It hasn’t been all that bad, really. I’ve found there’s a good reason students are advised to take blocks of time off and away from the very cushioned academic environment. Yes, students work part time. Some even full time. And they come from every possible social strata of life. But falling into academia is nothing if not cushioned. If you don’t believe me, ask the thousands of graduates who walk right into the arms of the newest phenomenon called the quarter-life crisis.

There are a few issues here. First I don’t disagree with Neha about social expectations and traditional norms. For all our talk about progressivity, we are still creatures of effacement, which makes Tim O’Brien that much more interesting. But I disagree that academia is a cushioned place. Cushioned against or opposed to what? If it is, students have a hand in making it so. Since academe has become an aspect of the larger market place, it doesn’t help in some cases to base so much effort on “majors” and “jobs.” This, I think, is a mistake in the institution’s design. But the design can be changed. It can be changed by students. The academic environment should treat jobs or careers as accidental and should concentrate on thinking. If one has an idea, the academic environment should provide a place for that idea’s development, marketable or not. Law school should be a place where people who want to be a lawyers can go for professional training.

Likewise, traditions, such as marriage, don’t need to be “kept” if they’re important and sustainable on their own, like an interesting idea. The creative impulse is to make not keep or horde.

Stories are not insulated or cut off from the world. The core conflict is always right in step with what is.

In Beowulf, Hrothgar does not call the Geats for respite. Beowulf journeys, nonetheless.


2 responses to “Epiphanies”

  1. Mary Ellen says:

    I wonder if by “cushioned” she means reliable? Predictable? There is a discernable pattern to college life, which is very reassuring to those who have not yet become aware of their own independent power as thinkers. Maybe this is the quarter-life crisis? I’ve never heard the term before, but if it describes the point when you are free of the college life and now need to craft your own, I can see how this might seem like a crisis to some. If they have been the students of savvy professors, however, who did teach them to think and not just process and answer, they should do alright. The best part of the adventure is the surprise of it all, I think. I’d be terribly bored if I always knew what was coming down the pike.

  2. Neha says:

    First of all, my apologies for being rude and not joining in for feedback. I hadn’t even noticed this post until tonight. (You should have pinged me).

    Secondly, I’m glad you take issue with this, mainly because it’s been a while since we’ve had an actual conversation. By cushioned I mean a universe where traditional, full time, straight-out-of-high-school students can disappear into for four years without much of a clue of what to expect once they graduate. Of course I don’t mean to generalize across the board, but with two years spent away at a four year university, I found a great lack in the means available to educators to fully prepare students for life in the aftermath of graduation.

    Yes, students should be taught how to think for themselves – it’s shocking to see the sheer number of people I come across every day who couldn’t think on their own two feet to save their lives. It’s not always about the career or the job, but try telling that to the 28 year old mother of two children struggling to make ends meet, hoping for a better life in five years by signing up for ADP classes. And the resources for such students are plentiful, but seldom communicated, due to lack of resources in the system. Again, not a generalization, but an observance gleaned from reading, talking and working at a student resource center on both campuses.

    I’m all for academia. I’m even preparing myself to someday establish a strong foothold in higher ed. But sometimes higher ed can be very far removed from reality.

    As far as the quarter-life crisis is concerned, I’d strongly urge you to research it just a bit more. It’s become quite the talk of the town in recent years, and students are not as aware of it yet, so maybe as educators, we can guide them from our vantage points.

    Maybe I could even fold in a segment on the quarter life crisis into my class. Hmmm…..

    Thanks for opening up this issue. Waiting to hear what you have to say.