illogical things are happening everyday

A college dropout – me? The National Merit Scholar, the one who dreamed about higher education?

problemThat didn’t make any sense.

Yet the first go-around, that’s what happened. I took on too much and burned out. Few close to me disputed the wisdom of my choice, but all agreed I should try again when I was ready.

It took three years to be ready, but when I was, I was. The second time, at a different university, was the charm, and when it comes to charm, no one had more than my ultra-geeky Logic professor.

Many of my fellow students foolishly and vocally didn’t see the need for Logic 101.

Actually, he wasn’t even a professor at the time; it was his first teaching experience after graduating with a doctorate in Philosophy.

He faced formidable odds. This was before today’s plethora of news programs with self-proclaimed experts whose statements deserve challenge at every turn. Many, if not most, of my fellow students foolishly and vocally didn’t see the need for Logic 101.

For me, initially it was a requirement to plough through, rather than something to grab hold of and internalize.  It turned out I couldn’t wait for the each class and the concepts I would take in. Today, I consciously apply what I learned on a regular basis.

You’d be surprised when you listen how many “experts” seem to forget, or perhaps ignore, logic.

For those unclear about what you learn in a logic course, it starts with this: “All cats are animals, but not all animals are cats”. You’d be surprised when you listen how many of the aforementioned “experts” seem to forget, or perhaps deliberately ignore, that logic.

To take the cats-animals-cats thinking a bit further, something like “Most (specific political party devotees) believe this…but not everyone who believes that is a (specific political party supporter)” escapes them.

Or, for sports fans, “if we’d scored that touchdown in the second quarter, we would have won.” Nuh-uh. Any real fan of football knows each play builds on the previous one, and scoring that touchdown would have created a different game. (Scoring a field goal without penalty in the last second, I’ll give you that one, even though technically the rule of logic wouldn’t).

So when you hear the pundits say, “my candidate in the last election never would have created the mess we’re in,” that simply is poor reasoning. You don’t know what your candidate might have done. But all sides smugly say it, or something similar, on a regular basis.

I’ll give you, in this last election, and after the last year, it’s hard to imagine any other candidate would have created the mess we’re in. But that’s speculation based on facts, not an absolute truth. It can’t be. It never happened.

That sort of simple logic is violated on a regular basis. Other practical elements are equally good to know.

Okay, I can’t necessarily apply anything I learned in that course to the logic of my decision to drop out the first time. Yet it clearly was the right choice. Or was it? I’ll never know, logically speaking, because I’ll never know what would have happened if I stuck with it.


image credit: Question marks © tiero – Dollar Photo Club; Black Hole © vchalup — stock.adobe.com

 

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Education for Education’s Sake (rev.)

I have what some would call one of the most outdated degrees available today: news journalism, formerly called print journalism. We were groomed to work for newspapers.

I’m gueNews text on typewriterssing current journalism majors get a good dousing of social media education as well, but the reality is, by the time today’s graduates with any sort of journalism degree are my age, their degree will also be outdated.

Which leads to this question: why do we go to college if everything we learn, all the knowledge we gain, becomes yesterday’s news in light of greater innovation, broader (or narrower) thinking, changes in what the workplace values?

Because education in and of itself has value.
book and background Graduation
I went to college twice. The first time I dropped out before graduating, something, quite frankly, I’ve never really regretted. I got what I wanted out of that experience, and if I had graduated, I never would have gone back and completed my education in a field for which I was far better suited.

It wasn’t easy, however, to go back, and when I dropped out, I had to explain my decision to several people in my life who knew that would be the case. Some understood, some did not. One friend was more upset than most, and when I told him I simply couldn’t pursue a degree in something I had no interest in vocationally, he asked me this: “what about education for the sake of education?”

The fact was, it wasn’t a well-rounded learning experience at that college, at least, not for me. I needed something more. But he was right about the inherent value of education.

Today in our country a college education is often maligned, as if learning and thinking turns us into pontificating fools with no idea which way the wind is blowing. People wonder why they should bother to learn something they’re “never going to use.” Yet how do you know what knowledge you will need, and how you will use it?

You learn a lot more than facts in college. You learn how to think.

Without an education, you are more likely to fall prey to con artists who play on people’s emotions and ignorance, spouting rhetoric not substantiated by the facts. They have always existed, and they aren’t likely to go away. It pays to have the tools to sort through the mire and gain understanding.

Today I no longer work in a field remotely related to my degree, yet having an education is an essential part of my success. You can tell the college graduates from the rest. Even those self-taught individuals, those who know lots of facts and can win any game of Trivial Pursuit, don’t have the polish that comes from the college experience. It is education; it is the process of learning, of deeper thinking, of using logic and research to reach your own conclusions that changes you.

Education for education’s sake.


This is a revision of one of my most-read posts, from April 2016.


Photo Credits: (typewriter) © GraphicStock; (Graduation Day) © carballo — Fotolia

Pages of the World Book

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
― Augustine of Hippo

Travel, or otherwise explore the world.

It is easy to dismiss the decisions of others, particularly those of people in other cultures, if one has never traveled more than 100 miles from their place of birth. Brief trips to a large city for business travel are often sheltered, and the annual visit to the family cabin, albeit more than 100 miles away, isn’t truly traveling in the sense I’m speaking of here.

At the age of 19, my brother loaded his backpack and headed for Europe, Australia and New Zealand, hiking and taking odd jobs for about a year, as I recall. I believe that trip shaped him, helped him focus his priorities and exposed him to thinking different from that which he heard while growing up. He has always been a kind and thoughtful person, but traveling alone gave him a perspective he couldn’t get any other way.

He shared with me some of the conversations he had with complete strangers during his trip, and those words have changed me, so I know they changed him. I wouldn’t have survived the last few years without him, and I believe that foundational, transformational experience is part of the reason he has so much to offer me.

Over the years I’ve talked to parents who are agonizing over their son’s or daughter’s choice to travel for a time, giving up their dreams of a college education (or so it seems to mom and dad) for a hobo lifestyle. I tell them not to worry, and inevitably those children have gone on to greater things, some back to school, some not, but they knew that that time away from all that comforted them would be healthy.

The Whole World Kids

Even Prince William took off for ten weeks to volunteer in Chile, where he faced ribbing by other volunteers, such as less-than-complimentary nicknames, among other things, I’m sure. At the time he said, “I’m with a group of people I wouldn’t normally be with and getting along with them is great fun and educational. There are some real characters in the group who don’t hold back any words at all.”1

I imagine.

Several friends of mine graduated with honors from high school, went to a nearby college and moved on to career success in the same city they were raised in. Their standards and norms are measured by the world immediately around them, and they mock others whose lifestyle and thinking is foreign to them, even if those people vote for the same president they do. They are experts in their own world with no grasp of what motivates people outside the walls of their great city.

Not everyone can backpack through foreign countries, or even distant parts of their own country. It isn’t suitable for some to travel extensively. But the world we live in today gives us exposure through traditional and modern methods to pages of the World Book. It’s not the same as travel, but it still is an opportunity to grow.

Take the time to grow.


1 The Telegraph, December 10, 2000, “Hard work and high adventure for William in Chile.”

Image Credits: (World Map) © asantosg — Bigstock; (World Kids) © lenm — Bigstock

I Like Pens Too Much to Quit Writing

Frequently these days my friends in education tell me schools are no longer teaching cursive writing.

I can’t imagine. You won’t be able to sign your own name?

I’m hardly old, but I feel as though I’ll be judged that way when I say I “still” write notes or send cards to friends. An e-mail birthday card doesn’t cut it with me. You can’t save them and treasure them. Or is that the point? Do people no longer want cards & letters cluttering up their lives?

I came across a stack of letters from college friends the other day. They were written years ago, before e-mail, Facebook, or the plethora of other ways to communicate. I laughed a lot and cried just a little when I read them. We were so optimistic and idealistic, in love or embarking on new careers, moving across the country or across the ocean. We hadn’t faced the responsibilities and disappointments life throws at you as adults.

What about journal entries? I stopped writing in a journal a few years back when I was falsely accused of a crime. I didn’t want personal thoughts taken into evidence and made public record. As it turns out, there was never a real risk of that happening, but it frightens me it could. I miss the writing, though.

I have two blank journals I’d bought in anticipation of the events and feelings I’d enter in them. My fear holds me back from writing, and I’m deeply saddened.

I like the feel of the pen in my hand. I won’t give that up.

If I’m like my mom, my hands someday will fail me and writing will become a challenge I no longer want to take on. Until that time, I hope I don’t stop handwriting thoughts and letters.

pen-idea sm


Image Credit: © artender — Dollar Photo Club

Lessons Learned: A Belated Thank You

In sixth grade, in an effort to teach his students the importance of simplicity in writing, Mr. Dunton assigned each of us a famous saying, something we all were familiar with. We were told to re-write it, using unnecessarily complex language.

Here’s what I came up with:

AdobeStock_143047698“An overabundance of persons engaged in creating edible material taint the liquid in which meat, fish and vegetables are stewed.”

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the original popular saying. Mr. Dunton loved my interpretation, and my classmates were completely confused. I can’t speak for any of them, but that lesson stayed with me.

As did the assignment we were given in eighth grade. Write a 100-word description of anything you choose, just don’t use the same word twice.

Unfortunately some of us were very literal and thought that included such words as “the” and “is.” It became a challenging assignment. One that has proven to be useful to this day.

Frequently after I’ve written and published one of my blog posts I find an “appalling” error. I hasten to correct it, but what I really should be doing is thanking those teachers who taught me to spot the problems in my writing and helped me hone a skill that is essential to my well-being.

I have several friends who are teachers, and I know there are days they feel as if they’ve accomplished nothing. The demands put on their job that seemingly have nothing to do with teaching, but rather, with meeting the obscure expectations of bureaucrats, overshadow the part of the job they love.

AdobeStock_110260540
Thank you very much!

Most days will eventually fade in the memories of their students, most assignments will be a part of a hazy past. Still, some things will stick, and they will make the difference teachers want to believe they are making.

Thank you, Mr. Dunton. Thank you, Mrs. Edwards…Mr. Teall…Mr. Tabucchi…Miss Golart. For those of you I’m not naming, you are not forgotten. Neither are your lessons.

Thank you.


Images © geosap — Adobe Stock

Quote Challenge Day Two

girl-reading-small

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

About the Quote Challenge (you’re invited!):

Thank you, Dede, for inviting me to take part in this challenge. If your life has been turned upside down and you’re determined to make it good again, visit her site.

I struggle a bit with quote challenges, so this is a compromise. It’s a three-day challenge, and I should nominate three people each day to take part in the event. Choosing those select people overwhelms me. So if you want to accept this challenge, please do so!

Three quotes over three days. Thank the person who nominated you, and nominate three new people each day.


Image Credit:  © cirodelia – Fotolia

Wisdom is as Essential as Salt

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
— Aristotle

“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Centuries apart, great minds came to the same conclusion. It takes more than a headful of knowledge to truly be of use in society. The one who can spout a bounty of facts may be of passing interest, but those who take those facts and put them into perspective will have a lasting impact.

Grammar police are often annoying, and with good reason. They rarely relay in any meaningful form the purpose of speaking with precise correctness. Written grammatical correctness has its place. It makes reading easier and more comprehensible. (Anyone paying attention will find errors with my writing, so no need to point that out. I know already.) And certainly speaking with clarity is a necessary skill for most of us.

turkey strut

But if I fail to properly use “whom” while I’m talking to you, or I tell you I’m “good” instead of “well” when you ask how I’m doing, you should know you come across as pompous and insecure about your own intellect when you correct me.

That kind of education, knowing proper grammar, is important. But knowing when it matters is just as important.

I have said it before and it bears repeating: the most valuable class I took in college was Logic 101.  I was fortunate. I had a fantastic professor. Today’s world of pundits and sometime fools spouting off facts on 24-hour television requires our discretion and wisdom. It doesn’t hurt to have those skills in everyday conversation, either.

If you cook, you know salt is essential for the tastiness of so many foods. Those on a salt-restricted diet will tell you that’s absolutely true. Yes, there are healthy alternatives. Wisdom is as essential as salt, and the alternative is discernment.

Knowledge concept with books and seedlings

I have good friends who are in education. Bonnie is one of the leaders of a state college in California, and her passion for students and learning is inspirational. As is the same spirit in so many teachers and administrators. I applaud all of you.

My cousin is working toward his masters’ in education, and plans to teach high school when he’s done. All that learning for a job that pays so little while demanding so much. Kudos to all of you committed enough to the process to pursue that highest education for the sake of others.

I hardly have to tell you educators, because you know by experience, the importance of wisdom as well as knowledge. I remember the wise words of my freshman English teacher, who’d throw those thoughts out almost as an aside, better than I remember the vocabulary tests we took each week. It’s forty years later, and they have helped shape my life.


Photo Credits: (rooster) © Tsomka — Bigstock; (book with plant) © Elnur — Bigstock


Learning