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April 13, 2015

Don’t Stay in School

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 12:47 pm

me: hey, this is cute: “Don’t Stay in School” 😀

her: something I’ve felt and discovered other people feel too is, upon discovering antischooling rhetoric, to think “but how am i supposed to learn on my own with no structure or discipline?” These people were kinda anti-rolequeer, so they overlooked problems with the current way school works, ie forced, age segregated, ableist, one size fits all, standardized test focused, and if there’s any actual knowledge being imparted it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, etc.

But it is a problem I’ve encountered in trying to be an autodidact. And I think it boils down to the “auto” part. I’m ALONE. Nobody to clarify confusion or reduce frustration. In fact, years of being in American public school removes the natural joy of learning. You learn to associate it with tedium and boredom, and then when there isn’t a looming punishment for not turning in an assignment, there’s no motivation to do the work at all.

Yeah, I really struggle with this as well. It’s something I’ve talked with Maymay about a lot. They also struggle, not with the self motivation part but with the being alone part. They REALLY want people to learn collaboratively with and they find learning collaboratively much more effective than learning in a vacuum — but so few people know how to learn in a self-motivated way, because of school crushing those drives, it’s even harder to find people who know how to learn in a collaborative self-motivated way.

This is a very intentional design of the school system. You’ll understand this if you ever talk to graduate school advisors, TBH. Because the thing you’re supposed to do in research is actually be naturally curious, self-motivated, driven, unstructured, non-linear, and passionate about pursuing the answers to questions that excite you. But you get these kids in right out of undergrad and they basically have no capacity to think for themselves, get curious, make decisions on their own w.o asking for permission, etc…

All of those skills that children naturally have, that are beaten out of them by the public school system and a traditional undergraduate education, and then have to be *re-instilled* in the small handful of students with the resources and class privilege to actually make it to graduate school. But, at that point, that curiosity and self-motivation is only re-instilled in a particular very narrow subject area, most often one that has material benefit to the government.

Like, imagine what the world would be like if people were encouraged from birth to be self-motivated researchers and problem-solvers about any and all issues and problems that caught their attention. We’d have a LOT more people pouring shit tons of energy and creating thinking into solving problems like oppression, starvation, poverty, cruelty, etc. And effective solutions to those problems are really threatening to the status quo.

So instead, what you do is take that drive and kill it. And then cherrypick a very small sub-population of people to hand it back to, mostly as a reward for being born in a particular class status but very occasionally just ’cause the’re super smart and capable, but you only do so once you’ve ensured enough compliance in those people that you know they’ll only direct their creative problem-solving power at problems that are either more-or-less inane and non-threatening (like what some passage in Shakespeare means) or that can be converted into military technology.

And then you throw everybody else out into a workforce that basically structurally resembles the same kind of psychological meat-grinder school structure they’ve become accustomed to. And you make them feel like they’re choosing to participate in that system, because when they’re not, they don’t know what to do with themselves. They feel like maybe they should have some hopes or dreams or plans or projects. But, left to their own devices, they just binge on Netflix and feel bad about themselves.

Obvs, I speak from personal experience. 😛

The thing I hate most that school messed up for me was…my willingness to spend time simply learning about a thing, reading in depth, for the sake of understanding without immediately creating some kind of output or project or “proof” that I “did the reading assignment.” Because when I was in school, I never actually had to *read* the literature or do more than skim it for a quote or two, in order to successfully list it as one of my “three required sources” in my bibliography and get an A.

And meanwhile the cognitive energy I might’ve spent on actually taking time to understand the material needed to be triaged to handle some other type of busywork (or dealing with my mother.) So now, whenever I take time to just sit down and read stuff…there’s this little voice in my head just being like, “Do you have time for this? You don’t have time for this. This is not homework. Do your homework.”

I did this all through college, too. Even though I studied in an extremely literature-heavy discipline. The skills I developed were not in reading comprehension, they were in being able to *talk* about the reading as if I’d read it…which, more than a paragraph or two, I almost never had. And this became a SERIOUS problem for me when I actually started a research job. Because I was expected to do literature reviews for the projects I was working on, and what’s more, I was expected to do that so I’d actually *understand* the material we were studying and make research decisions based on that understanding, not just so that I could fake analyze it in a group discussion for twenty minutes. And I was absolutely fucking incapable of doing this.

And the reason I was incapable isn’t because I lack the ability to comprehend scientific literature. It’s because any time I sat down to do some reading, my brain would be like, “You will not have anything to show your boss if you just read all day. This is not a good use of your time. You need to be productive. You need to turn in a homework assignment. You need to prove you read something.” It turns out “proving I read something” takes away really necessary time from actual reading.

Meanwhile, probably the main reason I got so conversant with early 2000s social justice political theory is that reading LiveJournal was how I procrastinated at work. And since I *didn’t* want there to be any evidence of my doing that, I just consumed a ton of material and digested it and thought about and biosociatively connected it to other material I was reading, and didn’t *do* anything “productive” with it for a long, long, long time.

Anyway. Sorry, rambling. I have lots of thoughts and feels about this, obvs.

her: I like your ramblings.

me: 🙂

her: And honestly, this all seems to apply extra to AFAB women in stem.

me: oh yeah for sure. ironically, that’s what i was studying when i had that research job. the educational and career trajectories of women in (and who dropped out of) STEM. 😛 so it was this very weird meta experience the whole time of being like, “I am consciously aware of all of these institutional impacts on my own career and, at the same time, simply knowing what is going on doesn’t seem to be enough for me to break the cycle.”

her: That’s like the story of humanity. “I know this is fucked up but I can’t seem to stop”

me: i know right? what’s up with that


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