Thursday, January 26, 2012


For the past few weeks I've been hammering away at several different poems, but I've got little more than a couple of callousy handfuls of bent-nail fragments to show for it. Odd images (starry-breasted crows, fog-covered tenement-like brick blocks, concrete tunnels like birth canals), and random thoughts.

Keeping with this fashion, here are a few random thoughts on academics and academia:

1. I wonder at the extent to which we are all isolated in our disciplines, and to which we do most of our work in rooms with four walls and very often no windows.

2. I wonder at the sterility of the Platonist, universalist, formalist conception of mathematics, itself an isolating philosophy, allowing as it does a detachment from the world and from others as we engage in our mathematical work.

3. I wonder at the mechanisms we feel we must make and maintain in order to "deliver" our curricula. The more I learn about the inner workings of the Honors Program, the more I wonder if there are simpler ways to put it all together.

4. I wonder at our assessment practices, at every level, from the individual student to the institution as a whole. To what extent are they arbitrary, effective, replicable? To what extent are they doing what we need them to be doing?

5. I wonder at the effects of our educational system, both intended and unintended. How often does a student's passion for perfect grades overpower her passion for learning?

6. I wonder at things as they stand for things, and am reminded of William Carlos William's red wheelbarrow:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

1 comment:

Michael Walker said...

Your comment about striving for perfect grades overpowering the point of learning is pretty spot-on, I think.

As someone that's a self-professed perfectionist when it comes to academic matters, I think that there's little doubt that I've been driven at least as equally by the "A" at the end of the course as I have been by the actual knowledge that I've gained.

In fact, I'm disappointed to say that after thinking a bit about a decent number of classes in the last few semesters, I remember fairly little of the knowledge that I learned, but I'll be damned if I don't have a pretty good feel for what I made on the tests.

I'm actually not sure how I feel about this. It leaves an unsettling feeling.