Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bartolomeo! Can I get a witnessss!!!

My entire college career reflects precisely what Bartholomae is asserting in "Inventing the University." I was not mature enough for college when I graduated high school. I had many false starts trying to be a university student. I still feel that this was largely my own fault and responsibility, but my view has also widened a bit and I can agree with Bartholomae that the university functions on a discourse that is problematic and limited in itself, and also not natural. It is a construct and an invention (and it has to be). It is one that is very tough to learn, however. There has not been a year that has gone by in my long journey through college in which I did not beat myself up, being bitterly disappointed in myself and my continual inability to cut the mustard just right (or not at all). I think, however, that it is no longer all on me. Lots of people want to be piano majors. Does that mean that the way WSU goes about it is the best way? Lots of people like to explore in college, even though they have declared and committed to a major. Does that mean that the various departments in which they dabble will understand, agree with, or work with that? There are two wills on the university--the university's and the student's. There are AT LEAST two wills. Really there are as many wills as there are departments, deans, professors, and students. I have seen some of the best and brightest wither and die because the university and the student were not a good fit. The program and the student are not a good fit. Fortunately, that was not what happened to me, but I feel that I am better equipped now to understand why it has happened to so many. I now realize that it is not only a matter of the student. It is also about the way in which the institution communicates, thinks, and goes about things.

Even when I finally got on track and started knocking down semester after semester in a steady fashion, my college experience was fraught with horrifying communication problems between professors and me. There was sometimes great confusion in what was required of me, even after just having a face to face conversation. I also had to face both the changing opinions and approaches of professors (their changing their minds or their simply forgetting things) and my own issues with those very same things. I had to deal with requirements that were fine, in themselves, but nearly impossible to reconcile all at once (talking about time and energy!) Then there's always the life factor. Life still happens outside of college! The school and everybody on its payroll would always just keep plugging along, however. It has been very hard to keep up with both myself and the college machine. They are two different animals, and the bottom line is that they do not always UNDERSTAND each other, much less keep up with each other. I have had soaring victories and very terrible lows. I have come to love "my college years" immensely and the people who were a part of it tremendously, including--and sometimes especially--professors. I have also come to realize, however (especially after having Bartholomae's piece shed interpretive light on this university experience), that not being the best-of-the-best as a college student does not make me a bad person. In fact, it may not even really mean anything at all. Bartholomae has given me permission to not allow the Institution to define my humanity and self worth (sorry to sound so trite). The Institution, and its standards, is just one perspective on reality. It is only one take on "how to do it." Every single lesson I have learned from college has been invaluable, both inside and outside the classroom. I realize, though, that me and the university were like two friends going for a walk on a certain path, having a dialogue. We have come to the end of the path and now he/she and I have to shake hands, say goodbye, and go meet and walk with other friends. Maybe those friends will be even better friends and the conversations even sweeter.


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