Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The End of Education

I wrote the following essay for my college composition class freshman year (so please forgive the poor/formal writing style!) about Richard Rodriguez’s autobiographical exploration about the end of his education. I was reading over it the other day and realized that some of the main ideas in this paper would be interesting to revisit now that I’ve graduated college and am trying to find ways to continue learning in a post-formal-education life.

I discovered while reading Richard Rodriguez’s “The Achievement of Desire” that there is a stark difference between what I believe he refers to as the “end of education” and what I believe the “end of education” to truly be. Rodriguez’s education is not life-long learning, but rather an education ending with the end of formal education.

It has always been the idea in my mind that you never stop learning until you die. My grandfather has been the prime example in my life. He has been educating himself (teaching himself how to captain a ship and living on a boat for years, starting his own business, learning to speak Italian fluently, always reading a book about a topic of interest to him, taking up woodworking, and becoming an expert on ancient Egyptian culture including the language, art, and music) for as long as I can remember up until the present day. Out of passion comes a desire to surround yourself by everything that is the cause of that passion. If you are passionate about life, you will strive to surround yourself by everything that life has to offer.

In Mary Louise Pratt’s essay, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” she describes a new Cultures, Ideas, Values class: “It was the most exciting teaching we had ever done, and also the hardest… (who can forget Atahuallpa throwing down the Bible because it would not speak to him?)…Along with rage, incomprehension, and pain, there were exhilarating moments of wonder and revelation, mutual understanding, and new wisdom—the joys of the contact zone.” Without any passion in education, a contact zone would ultimately fail. Without passion, nobody in the classroom would speak strongly about anything (given they speak at all), and would therefore not become a place of sharing of ideas, and certainly nothing of the sort of classroom experience Pratt describes. A contact zone classroom is often a difficult place to be, but the way in which Pratt speaks of her situation, it also sounds like a wonderfully passionate place to be and to share with others.

The most passion comes from sharing my ideas with others who are interested in the same things as me. Since Rodriguez read and studied alone in the library, he rarely shared his ideas by talking to others. In fact, he “began to wonder: Who, besides my dissertation director and a few faculty members, would ever read what I wrote?” Following that thought he yearns for a more passionate life. If he were able to share what he wrote with the world, maybe he would have found passion somewhere in his thoughtfulness.

Rodriguez just never truly loved anything he studied but himself. His autobiographical essay did not show any passion about that which he studied, researched, or wrote about. Instead, his passion appears just through writing his own story about his own life. He has underestimated the role life-long learning has played in his own life. Although his autobiography mediates on how he has reached the end of his education, without even knowing it, Rodriguez managed to learn a great deal about himself and the world around him just by simply writing his own story. We can see this by the way his own perspectives have changed throughout the course of his life story. Rodriguez just needed to find his passion.
In the end, it is only fair to say that each individual has their own goal, or end, of education. As my grandfather has said, we will be of more service to our community as well-rounded individuals in life than as an individual with nothing more than a formal education degree. We all give our own meaning to life, but in order to have a life, you have to continue to explore life, and do so passionately.

A lot of us are out of school or about to be out of school. Do you feel like your education is over or that instead it has just begun? How has sharing and conversing about ideas (whether through a blog/twitter, an interest group, over a beer, etc.) helped you to continue learning post-college? And how do YOU explore life passionately?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December Monthly Goal Meetup

Thanksgiving Ham & Cheese Puffs - Trader Joe's Style

Oh yes, I definitely made those scrumptious looking cheese & ham puffs, and that was one of my goals for November! Now on to a recap of my November goals with my new December goals to follow:

1. Get out all of my holiday cards before Thanksgiving. They were all in the mail the day before Thanksgiving, but honestly I would have been really disappointed in myself if I didn't make this happen considering I'm in the business of marketing and urged all of my clients to get their own holiday cards out early this year, too!

2. Create a sitemap for the new website in Wordpress. Umm I think so? I got the designer enough information to create a preliminary design, but I'm still learning what all needs to be done. I'm not sure I know what a sitemap is anymore. Watch out-- Learning in progress.

3. Identify my company’s niche markets. Errr confusion. Fail. To my credit, I didn't have the full month to ponder this one. I did however have an unexpected Starbucks meeting towards the end of the month with Ron Baron, a leader in the promotional products industry, who I sat next to on a plane a month ago on his way back home to Utah. We had exchanged cards on the plane and called me up the day before he was flying back to Raleigh for some other business and asked to get together and chat. He was really helpful in hashing out some of the ideas I've had and sent me off in a good direction.

4. In the spirit of GenYGivesThanks (Sharalyn Hartwell’s brainchild), share with my family how I am thankful this Thanksgiving. Duh: see previous "Thanks" post.

5. Make a real dish for turkey day. See photo above! Well actually those ham & cheese puff pastries don't count because I actually bought those from Trader Joe's. But I did make an experimental baked cabbage dish I found on CNN. Oh, and a pumpkin pie.

6. Return the 2 books to the library that I borrowed back in July. Being held accountable definitely helped. My friend was just a little surprised when she came to pick me up one night and I brought 2 huge books with me and asked her to stop by the library on our way to our night on the town!

7. Clean my room! There's a difference I realized between cleaning and decorating. I did however hang my paintings, photographs, and lamps and reorganized my desk so that at least it feels more tidy and homey in here.

So November overall was a pretty good month. I hope it has prepared me for December because this month is going to be a whopper of a roller coaster. I'll start with the "easy" stuff and move to the more ambitious of my endeavors.

1. Do all the "easy" stuff that I just never seem to make time for. Does it ever take you a month to make an appointment or run your dreaded errands even though it would only take 5 minutes if you took a moment to pause, and JUST DO IT? I need to make a dentist appointment. It's taken me almost 2 years to just do it. I think it will help now that the new dentist's office opening down the street is offering a free teeth-whitening if I make an appointment this week. Merry Christmas to me!

2. Do something I've never done before. It doesn't have to be anything crazy like jumping out of an airplane. Something simple. Just to keep life interesting :)

3. Read a fiction novel. I've been reading a lot more than usual lately. However, it's all been non-fiction and at a computer screen for the most part. I miss getting lost in a book and looking forward to reading another chapter at my next free moment. Last year I read 3 novels in 2 weeks but that was because I was a) traveling oversees on long plane rides and b) landed in a foreign country with no internet access for 2 weeks. I'll settle for 1 good read this month.

4. Include more of my photos on the blog. I was telling someone about my new blog and explaining how I used to be so involved in photography and I've lost my groove. Her advice: "You should put some photography on your blog". Could it have been any more obvious? I think I will, thank you.

5. Go to a free yoga class on campus at least 2 times. Where I work [during the day] there is a gym and fitness classes throughout the day. I used to go every Friday at lunch to pilates, but for one reason or another haven't been in months. Since it's free and only a short walk from my desk there really should be no excuse not to go, right? Except that morning classes begin before I wake up and evening classes start when my stomach starts growling, too. Anyone have some advice on scheduling fitness?

6. Work & work hard. I have a lot to get done this month with the family business. We're launching the new website this month (goal is Dec 18th, but I'd be happy with anything in 2009). That means lots of mini-goals to reach the big goal. Mini-goal A: create a database of client case studies. Mini-goal B: Send out the e-newsletter by December 16th.

I know, I didn't include any family/friends/holiday goals this time, but I'm pretty sure I don't need any reminding or nudging seeing as how everything is going pretty smoothly on that front. Next time we revisit goals it will be 2010 - scary?! Good luck everyone on making the most of your last month in 2009!

To participate in the meet-up:
1. Post a list of your career/life related goals for December, along with your checked off November goals if you’d like, on your own blog.
2. Go back to and leave a link to your post in the comments (*If you don’t have your own blog, feel free to share your list in the comments to join in!)
3. Then, check out everyone else’s lists as they leave comments - click their links, visit their blogs, say hello, meet, greet and support each other because that’s what it’s all about!