Absolute Uncertainty

It has been a while since I have taken the time to write something that does not have to do with something read or researched for a class, but writing I have done. There are so many things that have happened since my last writing that I really do not know where to begin. Even if I did, I think other pieces I have previously written and posted say what I want to say, and I do not want to be a broken record.

I am all but done with my first semester of graduate study with only one final revision to turn in on Friday. I learned a lot this semester, though a fair amount of the reading and writing I did does not directly pertain to my scholarly interest or curiosity. However, I did manage to find ways to connect subjects which were read to something that interested me and was able to weave my interests, questions, and opinions into the arguments my classmates and I had during seminar meetings.

Our seminars, like most graduate level history seminars I am assuming, lasted for up to three hours with a small break in between. Most of the time two hours was about the limit, and most of that time was spent arguing about interpretations of what was read or written for discussion.

The largest seminar ended with ten participants and the smallest, six. We came to class prepared. The professor opened the discussion by sharing his own thoughts or opinions concerning the reading assigned, and then opened the floor with this, “what did you think?”

Now here is the funny thing. At no time did a professor tell a student that they were wrong or mistaken. At no time did a student tell another student that they were wrong or mistaken. At no time was a voice raised above what passes for civil discussion or discourse. At no time was a student attacked personally. What would happen is the student offering an opinion would be challenged to better support their opinion, and most of the time, really all of the time, the student would be successful in fulfilling the challenge.

In short, we conversed. We discussed. We may not have left class with an overall common agreement, but we did leave with a better understanding concerning the multiple and widely varying interpretations that arise from an event or a figure from history.

It took some time, but I have been able to find a topic I want to investigate for my thesis. Questions concerning the topic will likely change continuously as I delve deeper into the primary and secondary source material, but the overall scope will likely remain unchanged.

Here is another funny thing. The professor who will serve as my advisor/mentor is unabashedly liberal in his political philosophy, and, well, so am I. The topic of the research seminar I took this semester related directly to my thesis, so the paper I wrote will serve as at least a portion of one of my thesis chapters, if not all of one. The professor that led the seminar is unabashedly conservative in his political philosophy. Though not his primary focus of study, he has just as keen an interest in my topic as I do and has expressed so multiple times. I will likely ask him to serve on my thesis committee, and I hope he accepts.

About halfway through the semester, my seminar professor arranged an informal interview with a friend of his to help me develop a stronger grasp on conservative thought with regard to politics and conservative interpretations of historical events and figures that relate directly to the paper I was writing as well as my thesis. The conversation between the three of us was, well, enjoyable. We all knew that we weren’t going to be changing any minds and on some things we did happen to agree. He and I were both up front with one another concerning our philosophies and outlooks concerning the current political landscape, and we laughed when we each said “I won’t hold that against you.” When he asked me about one of the figures I am studying, I told him that I did not agree with just about anything that ever came out of his mouth, but after reading his memoir I could relate a little more with him, but that I still had questions to ask. Our conversation lasted more than two hours, and when we parted ways we shook hands and he told me to be sure he got a copy of my paper.

I found out a little later that it was on the suggestion of my advisor that my seminar professor set up that meeting because he wanted me to have a well-rounded perspective and idea going into my research. He wanted my assumptions and opinions challenged before I ever got started on the study, and challenged they were. Did the meeting change my mind? No. Did the dialogue carried on throughout the meeting force me to entertain an idea or an opinion different from my own? Yes. Did I have to work harder to support my point of view? Absolutely. Did the outcome of my study meet with my previously-held assumptions? Yes and no.

It is that yes and no for which I am grateful, because it opened my eyes to something I had never considered. It is that yes and no that has led me to ask questions that have not been answered. Can I answer them? I am going to try. Because of the challenges presented, I find myself in a realm uncertainty that is either divisive or not addressed at all.

Something my mentor told me brought back something I have always believed. “Make sure you find an opinion that differs from yours.” In order to refute that opinion, I have to entertain the possibility that it may be correct. By entertaining the idea that it is correct, I have to work harder to find the evidence that will support my argument refuting it. If I cannot find the evidence I want to find, I will have to change my argument, as I have already done once and will likely do again. Though I will likely depend some on what others have previously written, what I say or write will be my argument against the differing opinion, and doing so will be both a challenge and an experience.

In a world that is filled with ideological and unwavering absolutes, the challenges ahead loom with a level of uncertainty. I look forward to it, and of that, I am absolutely certain.

 

Pretty Swell

Wow, it’s been a little while since I’ve been here, so here is a little bit of an update on what’s been running through my mind as I look out the window over my desk…

The short version is I am in the process of reading all the books pertaining to the history of Victorian Britain and the post-war South in the United States while reading about fallacies in historical writing and argument, writing papers about Native-American history and the Lost Colony in North Carolina, and skimming through footnotes and endnotes and bibliographies in the search for material that will help me find the questions I want to ask for my thesis.

I guess that’s not really a short version. The shortest version is that I began my studies as a graduate student in history last month, and I probably should not be here, writing this, because there is something else I need to be doing. However, as I was reading this morning I began to think about how I haven’t just let go and done any writing just to be writing, and in order to keep developing my writing skills, I need to find the time to do so. So, here I am.

My last post is about my thoughts and feelings concerning Harper Lee’s recently published manuscript, Go Set a Watchman. I won’t go into that more here, other than to say that the core of that book has shown me something that I very much want to investigate, and I won’t go into more of that here because my preliminary thoughts and questions are not fully hashed out, yet, but they will in time. They have to. This is what I want to study and write about, and I will get evaluated and graded on it and have to defend it, so I have to figure it out, and when I know, you’ll know…if I remember to share it with you good people in my little internet universe.

Other things that are going on?

11892039_10155953620650082_8562107509324620719_n

The hat.

The seasons and the leaves are starting to change. The air is a little more crisp in the morning and the sunrise has more of a golden hue about it. I bought a hat which my wife tried oh so diligently to talk me out of buying, but if there is a hat that is me, this is the hat. See, the hair on the top of my head is migrating to places where it should not migrate, and I needed some protection for the oh so sensitive skin. Presidential campaign politics are getting into full swing a full 14 months before the election next year, and I am trying my damnedest not to get involved. My lavender bush is really putting out some beautiful and sweet smelling flower buds. We bought some rocking chairs for our front porch which are proving to be the best items purchased since we moved into our house last October. Seinfeld is on Hulu and provides much needed levity and brain rest when I need to take a break from books and journal articles and primary sources. I am finding out just how high the stack of library books on my desk can get, and looking some of them up on Amazon and writing down prices because some of them are books that will be purchased in the future, probably near-future. I am trying desperately not to increase my coffee intake; on some days I succeed valiantly and on other days I fail miserably. I am still trying to figure out the optimal work/not work balance and figuring out that the balance moves constantly with no notice whatsoever. This is important because the first all-nighter I have to pull will probably kill me. I am looking forward to finding some time this Fall to get the camera out and take some pictures. The camera is starting to feel neglected in its bag. I am learning a lot which is really kind of the point. It is not easy or fun but I do enjoy it and so does my brain. Few things are more satisfying than when your brain gets pleasure from absorbing the things it wants to absorb and finds questions it wants to ask and finds the answers to them. I guess you could say this is my drug of choice.

I think that about sums it up as far as what’s been happening since July. Another short version is that life is pretty good; you could even say swell.

I better go. Victorian Britain is waiting for me.

Questioning Questions

If you know me or read my writing, you know I ask questions. I ask a lot of questions, sometimes of others, more often of myself. My parents will probably tell you that one of my favorite things to say while growing up was “why?” or “how?” or “what?” or “who?” or “when?”. The answer I remember getting most often is “look it up,” but it isn’t the answer I want to explore in this writing, but rather the question…really any question, and why I ask them.

I went back through my posts and noticed that in the vast majority of them I ask at least one question. Most of the time I don’t get an answer. Sometimes I answer the questions myself in an attempt to explore the idea a question raises. Sometimes the questions are for the readers that grace my posts with their eyes and minds.

What prompted this question about questions, you may ask? Well, I was taking part in a group discussion the other day and it was said that during a dialogue, if one keeps asking questions, then the questioned will eventually be caught in a lie or a dead end or something to that effect; essentially that one’s argument may be found as weak or unfounded. And that is true. Questions, by their very nature, seek truth, but what is truth? This is a question for another time. The question here is about questions, not truth.

Questions need an answer, usually an answer that satisfies a need for better understanding of what has been asked. An unanswered question is something akin to listening to a piece of music and getting to the end of it only to find that the melody and harmony do not resolve, leaving a feeling of want in the listener’s ear.

Maybe better put, an unanswered question is a missed opportunity for the further exploration of an idea, reason, or practice. An unanswered question is a missed opportunity to learn, both for the questioner and the questionee.

Questions drive thought and innovation. Questions drive progress in all areas of life and society. Questions present possibilities and promote probabilities. Questions refine, reinforce, or redefine ideas and/or practices.

Best of all, questions stimulate the mind. They instigate communication and discourse. Questions inspire discussion. Just go to any library or bookstore. Every volume on the shelves is an answer to some question asked.

Back to the question…

Why do I ask questions?

I ask questions because I want to know. I want to come to a better understanding of what I know, or I want to know about something I did not know about before. I want to know what other people think. I want to know why people think the way they do. I want to come to an understanding about things I don’t understand. I want to ponder possibilities and consider probabilities. I want to know that I am right and why. I want to know why I am wrong so I can be right in the future (nobody wants to know they are wrong, especially me.).

I want to know. I want to learn. I want to understand. And I never want to stop.

Normally Acceptable

The other night, I kept thinking and thinking about what I read before going to sleep and that prompted this post. I’m still thinking about it; wondering if there is a way to answer the questions I left at the end. I want to try to answer those questions and investigate this idea of normal, because, well, we all try so hard to individualize ourselves and separate from the herd. In small ways, we are successful. We differentiate ourselves and we give ourselves labels that provide some division, some distance, from others’ identities. However, most of us still remain within the realm of normal.

Why is that?

Why do we seek to be different, even in the most innocuous ways, but, at the same time, we voluntarily stay within the bounds of unwritten rules?

Is it a comfort thing? Is it an issue of stability and security? How do we set the boundaries on what is normal and acceptable when it comes to living out our individuality within a social group? How do we balance the scales between the consistency of normal and the variability of individuality? How do we measure and compare being different with being too different? Where do these unseen boundaries, unwritten rules, and unspoken measures come from?

Those are a lot questions, so maybe you can see why I am so jumbled up. Most of these are issues I think about, and have thought about, for a long time. Even for a group of professed nonconformists to normal rules of greater society, that group has rules that are unwritten and unseen boundaries that are not to be crossed if one wishes to remain a nonconformist. So, even in their nonconformity, there is conformity; there is a standard.

There are some that say screw the rules, let’s all live our own lives, but I believe that to be too simplistic. I do, however, believe that if one tries hard enough, one can find a niche within which to socialize and find a level of comfort, really, in essence, to feel, dare I say, normal, or would it be better to replace normal with accepted?

I am sure there will be more to come concerning this strand of thought. If you have all the answers, or even just one or two, feel free to share them with me and with the few readers that grace these posts with their presence.

The Panopticon, Santa Claus, and Stanley Kubrick

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am reading quite a bit and have begun to delve into the world and theories of Foucault. Currently, I am reading Discipline & Punish and just finished the chapter on the panopticon. There is quite a lot to wrap one’s head around within this chapter, but it is the final question asked that sticks with me, which demonstrates the point being made.

“Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?” -Foucault, Discipline & Punish, translated by Alan Sheridan.

I suppose a little background is necessary to understand. Through the book, Foucault illustrates how the physical punishment of the Middle Ages up through the monarchies of the 18th century began to transform, with the thinking of the Enlightenment, into a more subtle form of discipline that focuses less on the body and more on the mind and behavior of the subject being disciplined. That is the gist that I get from it, anyway.

The panopticon is an architectural design that facilitates this relatively new disciplinary form, involving a circular building, hollow in its center with a tower in the middle allowing those being disciplined to be observed at any time and/or all times. The individual cells within the building that holds those being disciplined are able to be viewed at any time by the observer in the tower. However, those in the cells cannot see those who are surveilling them. The “major effect” being “to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent disability that assures the automatic functioning of power.” The tower, not necessarily being occupied at all times (though the observed do not know that), serves to portray an unending process of surveillance and observation.

http://www.christianhubert.com/writings/diagram___abstract1.jpeg

The Panopticon Source

Foucault expands on the idea of the theoretical “mechanism” of the panopticon, “it is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use,” showing how the separation of those to be observed into individual units and the constant observation performed on, not only convicts in prisons, but also, workers in factories, military service members, students in schools, patients in hospitals, etc. The observing parties, be they prison guards, teachers/professors, military leaders/commanders, job foremen/supervisors, religious leaders, etc… represent the rules and protocols that the observed are expected to follow and work to engrain those rules and protocols into those being observed.

As I ruminated on this, the quote referenced at the top, and this idea as well, “…in order to be exercised, this power has to be given the instrument of permanent, exhaustive, omnipresent surveillance, capable of making all visible, as long as it could itself remain invisible,” I had a thought. Santa Claus. Yep, that was my thought. Santa Claus is the panopticon. Think about it. “He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

So, the idea of the panopticon, or the mechanism, has become a naturally conditioned phenomenon in our society. There is a lot said for the perceived, unending surveillance perpetrated by the government. We wax endlessly concerning the infinite presence of Big Brother. We exclaim from the mountaintops the right to privacy. Yet, for any number of reasons, we allow ourselves to be observed or surveilled in the most intimate of settings in order to feel safe and to know that our society is secure and stable.

Any number of reasons. The primary reason is for stability. Word has it that in order for a society to function, there must be stability. In order to create stability, norms have to be established. In order for norms to be established, there has to be a specific consensus on what is to be considered normal. Once the norms are established, they have to be codified and the norms enforced. Once this happens, norms become rules. In order for the dynamics of power within a group of people to remain stable and unchanging, the rules governing said group must be developed, observed, practiced, and enforced.

What better way is there to enforce societal norms and rules than to teach young children about a man that “knows if you’ve been bad or good,” and if the young children are not good, their behavior will be rewarded negatively; in other words, they will be disciplined. If the children adhere to the rules, they will be rewarded positively with gifts and such. Even though Santa is not there, he is there, and he is always watching, ever vigilant to ensure stability within the group.

We are conditioned for this never-ending observation and surveillance. We accept it, most of the time, without question, because to question is to challenge the authority performing the observation, and challenging authority is to promote instability. Instability provides for the upsetting of the established dynamics of power within a group of people; it is, therefore, frowned upon. So to borrow a title from Stanley Kubrick of a movie that I have never seen, we operate in our society with our “eyes wide shut.” This is something to consider the next time Big Brother is brought up in terms of government surveillance. The government is a visible mechanism of power, and can, therefore, be directly protested. There are powers unseen and unheard that can, and probably should, be scrutinized and protested as well, though it is difficult to protest intangible power. These powers are submitted to voluntarily by most of us with our eyes wide shut, yet, they permeate much deeper than any surveillance the government can perform. Our very souls, our very character is affected by them, and, most of the time, is done so without question because of our conditioning to social stability and the normal that is enforced through them.

That leaves me begging a question or two that I will not answer here. If something is to be considered normal and stable, why does it need rules enforced in order to continue its stability? Doesn’t the necessity for rules negate the very meaning of what is to be normal and what is to be stable?

A Change in the System

As I sit here waiting for the snow to start falling again, I’m thinking about this article I just read concerning a certain presidential hopeful. I’m not going to post the article here or talk about the particular hopeful candidate. I think we are all a little tired of campaigning and electoral politics, especially in my home state of North Carolina. We just finished with a very bitter and what seemed like a never-ending campaign season.

Now, I love politics. I do. I especially enjoy studying political history. What I am not a fan of is current electoral politics. Emotions get involved and warp the debate that should be based on reason. Then the shouting and finger pointing start, along with snide and pithy remarks that go on and on and on and on and on. It gets old and boring and accomplishes nothing beyond expanding the commenters’ own ego and hubris. We’re all guilty of it. I know I am, at least, and I admit it. Why is it so damn hard for others to do the same?

Imagine how much more civil the process can be if we set our egos and emotions aside and simply talked to one another concerning our opinions. If we stopped allowing politicians and their ilk to bring our emotions into the varied debates, they would stop. If we turned off our televisions and radios when their emotion provoking advertisements came on, they would stop spending money to have them broadcast. The web ads are more difficult, but are easily ignored, and sometimes can be blocked.

The fact of the matter is that politicians themselves, as well as their biggest supporters, have more than enough ego to push their side of the debate. It is our job, no, our responsibility to take their ego out of the equation and attempt to work the problem out rationally, without the influence of emotion or ego.

Another fact is that a particular political platform is not going to please or benefit everyone. Let’s get real about it. According to the United States Census Bureau, the total population for the United States plus Armed Forces overseas through January 2015 was 320,366,579 people. 320. Million. People. That’s a lot of people to please. A lot. Of people. To please. A lot of personalities to influence. No one person, no one party, no one policy, no one law is going to please or influence them all.

Oh? We are a representative democracy? or a Federal Republic? or a Constitutional Republic? Whatever label you want to put on it? So, it takes a majority to set policy and such, a majority being 50% plus 1. Half of 320,366,579 is 160,183, 289.5. That’s still 160 million people to influence or persuade.

But not all of those 320 million people are eligible to vote. Okay. According to the United States Election Project, the voting age population was at 245,712,915 people for the general election of 2014. Half of that is 122,856,475.5. That’s still a lot of egos to influence. But, only 81,687,059 ballots were cast for the highest office on the ballot. Only two-thirds of those even eligible to vote cared enough to do so.

Though not a presidential election year when more voters go to the polls, these numbers illustrate a couple of possibilities, one of which being apathy. People just do not care. Another is that a lot of folks assume that their congressional representatives will win their seats with little to no contest. The incumbency rate averages safely over 80% for representatives and over 75% for senators, so voters tend to stay home for midterm elections thinking their vote will not sway too much one way or the other.

The last possibility that I will mention here goes along with the first possibility that people just don’t care, and that is voter fatigue. A lot of us are just tired of elections. The election cycle never, ever ends. Campaigning never goes away. It is an endless and vicious cycle, and we are tired of it. l say “we,” because I do not think I am alone in this. I no longer watch the news, and very rarely listen to, or read, it much anymore. Well, I probably read or listen more than the average person, but not anything like I used to do. It’s not news anymore. There is little “new” in the news. It is the same story with different characters and different wording, but the plot never changes. Who wants to keep track of that? And with most news outlets, especially those driven by profit motives, mixing news with opinion and commentary, the news is not news anymore. It is simply an orchestrated pandering for like-minded viewers, readers, and listeners. This pandering is nothing more than free campaign contributions given by a given media outlet to the candidate or political cause of its choice, thus continuing the already endless campaign cycle. What it almost seems like is that there is little governance occurring within our system, giving way to the tiresome cycle of unending campaign pandering and electioneering.

And that brings us back to the emotional and ego driven side of electoral politics and the necessity to go beyond the emotional and reach for the rational, to put aside egos and that intoxicating feeling of being right. We can force a better and more constructive conversation. The office seekers are not going to change the conversation for us. We have to demand it. We have to make it known that we are tired of it. The absolute best way to do so is to stop. Stop contributing to a system that does nothing but indulge your ego. Turn the channel if you watch the 24-hour news cycle. Force media outlets to report news, real news, not opinion or commentary. Use your own thoughts to construct an opinion or frame of mind rather than ruminating on something that someone else has already said. Take your own thoughts and use them when having a constructive dialogue concerning a political issue or official instead of bloviating the same tired talking points that someone else has put together. Doing so can reinvigorate our citizenry and bring about an enjoyment of participating in our primary civic responsibility of self-governance.

We” are the government, not the media or elected officials. Elected officials are supposed to represent our wants and needs. We supplement the ideas and we give the political will. It is not the other way around. The media is not there to shape opinion with commentary, but to report factual information. Hold the media to its responsibility. If you see a program giving commentary, turn the channel and do not go back to it. If you read a news article that provides commentary or opinion presented as fact, go to another website or throw the periodical in the trash.

It can be done. I am as big a political junkie as anyone I have ever met. I watched the 24-hour news cycle like it was a religion. I read the news like I could not get enough of it. I have not watched the news on television in going on three years, maybe longer. I have not consistently read news on a major media website in about the same amount of time. I may click on a link here and there if there is an article that is really newsworthy, but as far as taking one, or even two outlets as the political and civic gospel? No, I do not do it anymore.

Ask your own questions and find your own answers. With such an amazing tool as the internet, it does not take much time to do, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Scrutinize and criticize on your own terms. Stop letting others do it for you. Information feeds knowledge and knowledge is power, real power. Stop letting others dictate what information is important and take it upon yourself to do so.

Do you know what scares those in power most? It is not an armed citizenry, but an educated citizenry that has the ability to process information and use that information for its benefit. Information and knowledge can do more to challenge authority than any other weapon. And that is how you bring about change to a system that desperately needs changing.

Getting Interested…

I’ve been busy.  I met with a professor within the department to which I am applying for graduate school last week.  I’ve also been speaking a little with a friend that is wrapping up her graduate studies.  Between the two, I have a pretty good reading list worked out and have buried myself in books, pen, and paper.

A consensus between the two, the point driven especially hard by my friend, is to develop a background on the theories set forth by Foucault and other postmodernist thinkers (I disagreed with this kind of labelling before I began to read Foucault, but now that I have read a little of him, I disagree with it even more).  So, I’ve begun reading, beginning with Discipline & Punish.  At first I was intimidated by the thought of reading modern philosophy, because, well, I have had a difficult time reading philosophy in the past, but (and maybe I am not reading quite deeply enough into it) I think I have at least a layman’s understanding of what is being said.

See, I have this fascination with motives.  I enjoy exploring unspoken motives, especially those motives that drive people who occupy positions of power.  As I wrote in a post a couple of weeks ago before even thinking of reading Foucault:

“As much as we respect what we believe to be pure motivations behind political decisions such as whether or not to propose and promote a bill like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we must accept that there is usually more than one story, more than one motive, when it comes to the people in the story. If we don’t, we fail to see the whole story, and we fail to fully grasp the humanity within it.”

Maybe that’s why some of what Foucault has to say, especially concerning power, institutions, and knowledge, makes at least some sense to me, and drives me to want to know more and come to a better understanding. As I said in the referred to post,”the self-serving motive is probably the purest motive there can be,”  and what can be more motivating, or self-serving, than coming into a position of power or sustaining the favorable power dynamics within a relationship that one may already have?

In order to see the basic humanity within a story, which is really all history is, this cannot be ignored.  Even those historical, or even contemporary, figures which we admire have to be scrutinized to some degree, for they were, or are, human, and like all humans they did, or do, have flaws.  On a more positive note, such scrutinization may uncover more positive and wholesome motivations.  To be fair that cannot be ruled out.

Anyway, this interests me a lot.  There will be more to come.

Getting Closer…

So, my statement of intent is done.  I got over the dreading of writing it and just went to it. Four drafts later, and even some tinkering on that draft, it is finished.  I’m not touching it anymore.  I’m not even going to look at it.

What I am going to look at is the first draft of my scholarship essay.  I’m going to be looking at this a lot over the coming days.  It’s garbage, but at least it’s a draft.  It is something resembling the thoughts I have on paper.  My wife is going to shred it after she inks it up, but I’ve got something down, and that is better than what I had yesterday.

I’ve got my final recommendation confirmed, so once I am done with this last essay, my application will be ready to send.

I complained about having to write that statement, but after having done so, I saw it for what it was…an introspection.  It allowed me the thought process to clearly consider why I want to go to graduate school.  Granted, I’d already considered and considered why, but, there’s always a but, after talking with the program director and a professor I’m hoping to work with, there is some reality mixed in with the hopeful considerations I’ve had over the past months, really years.

So, it’s a dose of reality mixed with a pinch of hope and a dash of dreams.  I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe.  Wouldn’t you?

The time is getting closer.  At the beginning of next month I will begin meeting with one of my professors and getting a reading list compiled.  Then the real work can begin, and I’m looking forward to it.

Getting Ready…

I’m sitting here and have been staring at my “To-Do List” for my graduate school application.  I have two recommendations down and one to go.  I have taken the GRE.  I have to write my statement of intent to submit with my writing sample, and I have to submit an essay of 500 words on the importance of a graduate school education as it relates to my career goals.  I have two months from tomorrow to get my application submitted for early review.

As far as the statement of intent goes, I don’t really understand the point.  I’d think the intention of most that are going to graduate school is pretty much the same…the desire for more education in a given field, taking a particular interest or focus in a given field, and gaining knowledge, tools, and skills that will make one more marketable, or, simply marketable,  as an employee in a given field.  Do they want to know if I’m a capable writer?  I’m submitting a 25 page senior thesis.  That should give them some idea of my capabilities to write, to make an argument, and support a thesis statement.

Yeah…so, I just don’t get it, but I’m going to do it.  I have to do it.  I’ve written two paragraphs coming to about 125-130 words.  I’m shooting for another 200 words or so, and it’ll be done.

The scholarship essay is optional, but who wants to pass up the opportunity for free money??  So, I’m going to write that, too.  It’ll probably end up being a flowery version of my statement of intent or something like it.  We will see.

I’ve sent an email to the professor under whom I wish to study, and am looking forward to hearing from him soon.  I’ve already begun reading and sifting through bibliographies.  Right now there are 10 books lying around my computer, on my desk, or on my printer that are either bookmarked or are open to pages I’ve been reading.  I’ve got a decent reading list put together already of 17 books, so I’ll just wait and see how it compares to the list he wants to give me when we begin meeting.  Oh, and those 10 books on my desk are not counting the stack of books by my bed that I have been picking through.

I may be crazy, but I’ve missed this.

Getting Excited…

Wow…Two months since my last post.  Let’s look at where I am now…

We’ve moved and gotten settled into our new house.  I studied for, and took, the GRE.  I have a few finishing touches to put on my application for graduate school for the Summer term.  I have met with professors to discuss my plans concerning graduate school and what I am going to do with more education.  I started another trip around the sun.

Yes, I took the GRE.  I took it last week.  I didn’t want to, but I had to.  I had to take it in order to apply to graduate school.  Let me just tell you about that experience.  It was painful.  The months leading up to it were painful.  The days leading up to it were painful.  The whole experience was painful.

See, I get anxious before taking a test…any test, really.  This test, however, was different.  As I read the preparation materials and reviewed math skills that I have not used in nearly twenty years, I realized that there is really no way to fully prepare or study for the GRE.  Sure, time management is key to successfully completing the test, but what it really comes down to is that you either know it, or you don’t, and that does not work too well for me.  If I don’t know it and need to know it, then I NEED to know it.  It’s kind of like an obsession, really.

I remember feeling pretty much the same way when I took the SAT in high school for my college application.  I either knew the material, or I didn’t.  I did a lot more preparation for the GRE.  I bought a prep manual, reviewed math…yes math.  I honed my skills of analyzing arguments and presenting opinions on issues.  I attempted to learn every million dollar word in the English Language.  I did reasonably well, and I don’t really have any complaints, save one…

Standardized testing sucks.

It just…well…sucks.

And here is why…

The education I’m wanting and the kind of work that I want to do requires doing research on a given topic, analyzing and interpreting the research, formulating a thesis based on the analysis, and supporting that thesis with an argument based on the research performed along with knowledge of the topic being argued.  Sure, some mathematic skills may be required when doing research such as knowing percentages or analyzing data and statistics…hell, maybe even dealing with some fractions or long division.  Though when it comes to calculating the circumference of a triangle given only the radius of the square root and knowing that pi equals cake plus milk, there is absolutely no point in the future when I am going to need to know how to do that.

I know, I know…never say never.

I’m saying it, though.  NEVER.  So why did I have to waste energy studying, reviewing, and obsessing over that when I could have used that energy reviewing and obsessing over skills and knowledge that will pertain directly to my chosen educational endeavor?

All in all, I did alright.  I made it through without having an aneurysm.  I finished the sections within the allotted amount of time. I don’t think my pulse rate went above 180 bpm.  So, we’ll chalk up a mark in the success column.

My scores, once they are official, will be submitted to the graduate school’s admissions office and the program to which I am applying.  Two more essays to write and one last recommendation to get, and my application will be done.  That’s pretty exciting.

What’s even more exciting is that, once the new year begins, one of the professors under whom I will be studying is going to start meeting with me weekly to discuss what I am reading and helping me fine-tune a particular topic and/or period of study .  I’m pretty jazzed about that.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve already got my library card and everything.

It’s an exciting time, and I’m looking forward to it.