What Are We Really Learning?

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So, I’m just gonna be frank with you and tell you that this is another one those posts. Yep, that’s right. Another edition of a few more of the 5,234,567,865,234,566 reasons why I abhor grad school and and higher education as an entity. You may say, “well, you’re a product of it.” Tis true. But, I love learning, which seems to be a complete contradiction, but it seems to be that sometimes never the twain shall meet – education and actual learning, I mean. Since the cat is out of the bag about my distaste for academia right now, I might as well do some therapeutic writing and see if any of my readers can relate.  See, I think I have figured IT out…

Allow me to share my current stream of consciousness with you…if I may…

…before I begin, though, I fully acknowledge that this is about to be one of those rants I warned ya’ll about, so buckle up…and if you don’t want to hear me talk candidly about some of the things I’m struggling with in education, then I really suggest that you don’t read any further…So here goes:

While I value all the lessons that grad school taught me, I am still very cynical about the entire process. Heck, about the entire American educational system, if I want to be honest. But never have I been more disillusioned with this entire process than I am right now.

I think I need to give some background. See, I grew up in a solidly middle class Black family (privilege). A dad with a college degree (privilege). A mom with her own thriving business (privilege). In a homogenous white community with pretty decent “Blue Ribbon” public schools (again…privilege). I was encouraged and praised for being an honor roll student throughout my secondary education, which apparently did some good because it earned me a full ride scholarship to my alma mater. My family was big on education. Heck, my parents sacrificed so much of what they had to send my brother and I to the best schools and surround us in a thriving environment, and for that alone, I’m forever indebted. But, I was also encouraged to go as far as I could go up the formal educational ladder (read: get a PhD) because education is power, right? Especially for a Black woman. Heck, I still have family telling me to stay in school, even though I’m about to chuck the deuces and blow this popsicle stand graduate and become a part of the “paycheck plantation for a bit find employment. I considered doing all that…until I woke up.

I realized that even though I was more than capable of doing it (getting a PhD and teaching young minds the values of media literacy and all the “isms” and “schisms”), I really didn’t want to. So, I’m not. I didn’t think that my lackluster attitude toward academia would do a PhD program any justice when there are others who are truly passionate about it and would do a better job at at it than I. More importantly, I viewed that decision (if I were to make it) to be a relatively safe one…for me. I have a pretty good idea about how to navigate these waters, but it’s time to learn a new language, and take some risks while I’m still young. My heart is elsewhere and I can’t deny it any longer. (Did that just sound like a line out of The Notebook?). It’s high time that I stop feeling like I have to “represent” for my race by becoming highly educated and just do what will fulfill me and make an impact on the world. Because at the end of the day, I  truly “represent” when I operate in my calling and do what I love.

I’m also beginning to see (well, at least what I think I see) some of what’s going on and what we’re really learning when we come to college/grad school in liberal arts-centered programs like the ones I have been enrolled in. That’s the IT I was talking about earlier on in the post. It seems to me that all this jazz is about exclusivity at the end of the day. Who gets a degree from where. But, not only that, who gets to use cool acronyms (NCA, ECA, AEJMC, anyone?) and big words to talk theorize and navel gaze about the contemporary social problems plaguing our society while the other drones (wage slaves) worry about that quarterly report they have to turn in for that for-profit-only company they work for. Some are scholar-activists, so I’m not trying to cast my net too broadly here, but others are just cynics who don’t have any faith in the masses and they can’t because if they did, then there would be no exclusivity to be had or maintained. So, in a nutshell, among other things, I’m learning how to be exclusive and operate on a higher plane than most. Does it feel good? No. Why? Partly because of numbers 1-5 that I mentioned in my last post.

And let me just say that I am fully aware that (a) I have been granted awesome opportunities time and time again that I am so appreciative of and that others would give their right arm for. So, I’m trying not to sound ungrateful. (b) I have had the privilege of being able to be inside my own head nearly 24 hours a day for the past 2 years, which I value even though I fear it’s posts like these that are probably making me appear unstable because I have learned so much by doing that. (c) Wage slavery and the paycheck plantation are not walks in the park and can sometimes be worse than academia. So, I’m working hard to not idealize that experience too much but how can I not when I’ve been a student for the past 19 years? because it comes with its own set of unique problems that I will soon find out about first-hand. (d) I am complaining about higher education, but haven’t found a way to take it out of the abstract clouds and into grounded reality yet. Further more, not only am I a product of this thing, I will inevitably reap some benefits from having been apart of it.

So, where do I go from here? I don’t know. But I feel like I HAVE to problematize this ideal notion that so many people have about higher education and where it can take you…

But, what say you? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: So, I Had a Baby... | The Well-Read Herring

  2. Pingback: A Champ Is Born…

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