You remember how I start to question everything in my life when I'm super stressed at the end of the semester? Well why should this one be any different?
I was softly offered a job last week, a really cool and impressive job working for the House of Representatives for the state of Utah. I thought about it a lot and prayed about it and ultimately turned it down. This is ironic in so many ways. For example, I love studying government and I am a firm believer that through it, you can have so much influence and power to effect change for good. But I was offered a chance to be part of it and I turned it down. I think I can have a bigger impact on the government in my job working with the government rather than for it. And in the meantime I will continue to turn down high profile jobs in order to do so.
So I work my hardest in order to do well in school to study a subject about a system of which I am turning down the opportunity to be a more direct part in. This is ironic, right?
The hardest thing about this time of the semester for me is the logic behind why I do what I'm doing. Why am I busting my a** to get this done? Its not going to result in a big raise or promotion and I'm turning down jobs that more directly apply the knowledge I'm gaining. Most concerning, is that it may even be somewhat detrimental to me because I make sacrifices everywhere to go to school. I make sacrifices to my marriage and my home and my church responsibilities and my work in order to go to school. And I get so stressed about the stupid assignments because it is the busy work portion of the education that I'm trying to gain.
I went back to school to gain more knowledge in the study of political science and public administration. I wanted to better understand how my government worked and why sometimes it doesn't. Its a pretty altruistic motive for going to school - which is sometimes the problem at crunch time. My desire to learn is not bettered by my having to write 35 pages in a week about foreclosures and quantity versus quality argumentation in the judicial process. I could tell you everything about it right now and make some pretty sound arguments. I could even quote many, many sources on the subject. And I can write. I can. You may not know it from this dang blog but I can write. So then what? My source of motivation is to be more educated and I make some pretty sound arguments as to why this isn't really enough during the end of the semester and all its hoops.
And if you're thinking that experience is part of education, then I'm with you. I agree. But I've experienced this before. I've already earned a degree. I've already done the crunch thing before. I've jumped through these hoops and I can tell you that writing a 35 page paper is not necessarily indicative of being educated. More than not, its indicative of my being a pawn of the system.
I'm reminded of this speech given by a young valedictorian. She writes:
I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position?
And that is precisely where I am at.
Oh there are fruits of my labor already ripe for the picking. I do indeed have more knowledge about the public sector. I am a more sound thinker and have fine tuned my logic. I am moving toward the position and job I think I want at my work and likely would not have had that opportunity if I hadn't made it for myself through further education.
The truth is I thought I needed the system much more than I did. I need that piece of paper to be taken seriously as an expert on government when I'm meeting with governmental clients for my work. But do I? I'm taken seriously now and I don't have that paper.
I think one of the things that I'll take away from graduate school is a lesson I learned long ago from Good Will Hunting (see this scene). You don't necessarily need the system in order to be educated. And I knew that. I really did. There are some truly moronic people who graduate with multiple degrees who were not educated at all. But I've discovered something. I've discovered that I do not need the system.
Of course I will still use it and graduate from it and write this stupid dumb long paper on dumbness. Perhaps I am a product of the system in this way. But I no longer think I will see it as a reflection of education - because I think I've done that on my own, and in many ways DESPITE the education system. I read ALL of the readings because I wanted to. I was never held accountable to them and I certainly didn't need to do so to pass my classes. My book reviews were formatted differently than the rest because I consciously decided that I would rather take a lower grade and have it formatted in a way that serves its utility than have a higher grade by doing it the way the teacher merely preferred. No, I became educated all on my own.
Instead, I believe I will come to reflect upon this degree as the embodiment of determination. In no time at all I'll have an MA/MPA in will power and an education I cultivated by myself.