1. Rafiki

    Rafiki Active Member

    Aug 10, 2011
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    Applications to College

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Rafiki, Nov 9, 2012.

    I have been immersed within the Junior College system for, quite some time now, and it has finally come for me to begin the college application process.

    I have an issue though. While I am double majoring in History/English (I am studying what I find interesting and no I don't expect a job after I graduate) I have begun to have issue with the current structure of my English courses. My English classes are becoming trite, trivial, and all sorts of derogratory terms meaning simple that begin with "t" (triathlon? No, I must be losing it). The issue arises with regards to a singular teacher that I fear might rapidly become the norm. She is assigning High School level work, mindless busy work with the intent of appearing like I am producing. She is not teaching me how I might further myself, which means that much of my education takes place independent of the collegiate system.

    Now I understand that a single data point does not constitute a pattern, but I fear that it might become one if I were to enter into a four year university where the class might be taught via inexperienced graduate students.

    This is where you guys come in. I put out the call, to those that have the experience, to tell me of your experiences concerning higher education English. Understand that i have the option of applying to art schools, with very prestigious writing programs, and I wonder if an art school would be better suited towards my goals (I never expected that I would be considering art school, ahh the things we do with our time). Any help is appreciated, banal formality, banal formality.
  2. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    I did History of Art, so not English - but as part of my optional modules I did take on Asian American Literature and also Russian Exile Literature. This was in the UK. Universities there are a lot about self-learning - you're encouraged to disagree with your tutors, but you must form a strong argument as to why and source your references from reputable scholars etc. All in all, my degree helped me to think - it helped me to see why, for example, it makes sense for a woman to assassinate (publicly, with her known as the person to planned it) a man who had dishonoured her.

    That might sound like something non-consequential, but basically it helped me to be able to think from a wildly different perspective, judging from reasons that are not my own and finding them valid or invalid based on someone else's train of thought. You see the world quite differently after this, because you see what other people have missed, you notice how film and TV and media are manipulating you, and you never judge something at face value anymore. It's sharpened my mind so much that - though I don't use Art History in a job anywhere - I am still using this skill everyday.

    University, as far as I'm concerned, don't so much teach you anything except to think. It trains you to think, and the environment itself exposes you to people from all walks of life across the globe, and you're at the age when you're searching and open and curious and eager, as well as dark and critical - the perfect for examining all kinds of ideas and deciding which ones you'll pick up and walk with for the rest of your life. And thus, I find university invaluable. University will also make you read all kinds of things you'd never have otherwise, and while 98% of that might be boring or useless, there'll be 2% you'll treasure forever, and I think it's worth it for that 2%. Believe it or not but I'd never have known about Nabokov if it wasn't for Russian Exile Literature. My friends from school were not avid readers and I didn't discover the internet til I was about 16 so......

    Even the inexperienced graduate students will have something to teach you, trust me on that one. You will probably get a few PhD students as your tutors, but having been through university you come to appreciate just how hardcore it is to be doing a PhD! The level of detail and scrutiny required!

    But university is not for everyone - I have 2 friends who found nothing but misery at university. I personally chose not to pursue a postgrad because as clever as I am (haha) I'm not academic - after 4 years of drinking in knowledge I have come to the conclusion that this knowledge is useless - good and very interesting but ultimately useless. I want to create things, I'm less interested in knowing things. Part of it is also about what fulfils you. For me, I'd go for the writing programme - having said all this, I do not regret university at all. I'd never known Art History til I got there and it's become my favourite subject. I don't regret it, but I do believe there may have been something else that could've suited me just as much or maybe even more. I'll never know.

    However, this sorta university environment only comes once in your lifetime - once you start working it becomes much harder to go back, you no longer have the luxury of time and irresponsibility (if I'm using this word correctly - eg. you have no responsibilities that you must attend to in order to survive). Whereas a more vocational option might still be opened to you at a later stage of life. I'm still writing - I may not have gone for a writing programme and maybe I should've, but it hasn't stopped me writing after I graduated. However, could I go back to university now and absorb all that knowledge? No, not really - it'd be very hard since I have bills to pay, thus work to do, and with work comes the lack of time, so I have to choose between rest and study, and I choose rest. The choice is still there but like I say, it's much harder. And university is a kinda environment where it's sorta "time-limited" - you past a certain age and it becomes another world that is no longer so attractive, your mentality has shifted and has become too different from your classmates around you, you're no longer so open to drink in all that variety of craziness that comes your way. Is that a loss? I'd say so. While you may be quite happy with what you've settled with and have no need for different things, I think it is always better to know more rather than less before you settle down.

    So I'm not sure if I've answered your question, but I see university as an opportunity - but there's no right or wrong whether you go for a more traditional, academic option or a more vocational, artistic programme. However, I would not worry that you'll get nothing out of it. I should warn you though that anywhere you go, you'll be expected to do a lot of self-learning. University is about making you think, not about giving you knowledge in a spoon.
  3. JamesOliv

    JamesOliv Member

    Aug 26, 2012
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    New York
    I taught as adjunct faculty at a community college for two semesters. I can tell you that some of the adjunct faculty they bring on board are not superstars. Our English and History department faculty consisted almost exclusively of former and current high school teachers. In the town where I lived, there was not a very large pool to choose from. I suppose they were the ones who had MAs in those fields who were ready to take on the jobs.

    When I was in college, my English comp instructor never showed up. We routinely came in to find an assignment written on the board with a due date. Beyond that, we were on our own.

    I was afraid that all of college would be like this. I watched people who could barely write a coherent sentence walking out with honor grades and I was becoming disenfranchised very quickly. After my one semester studying at the community college (the same one where I taught years later, adjunct business law), I went to the University of Scranton and all of my fears were relieved.

    For starters, the professor student ratio was 1:25. There were no giant lecture halls. In three years of study, I had a graduate student teach exactly one day of one course. The school only had graduate programs in theology, business, nursing, PT and counseling at the time. So, unless you were majoring in one of those areas, there wasn't even an opportunity to be taught by a grad student.

    I also looked closely at the credentials of my professors. These were not former high school teachers. These were published experts in their respective fields.

    Granted, that was a private (Jesuit) college. It was also insanely expensive and I was only able to attend because I was a member of a religious order that received a tuition discount and was willing to foot the bill for me. So I get that such a school isn't always an option. But I also know that even in larger public institutions graduate students =/= crappy teachers.

    There is a huge difference between someone who has a masters and does a crappy job teaching in a junior college and a grad student working their butt off to break into their field. I'm not saying all junior college professors are bad and I'm not saying all TA's and GA's are great. I'm saying there is more to the equation.

    Even at U of S I had a public speaking professor who was terrible. She was an adjunct who had a Masters and (as she put it) "half of a doctorate." She didnt mean she was ABD. She took half of the doctoral coursework nearly twenty years prior to her teaching my class. She was a pretty big disappointment. But no system is perfect. It was also worth noting that she ONLY taught public speaking. Every lit class I took above the 100 series was taught by a person who had to publish to get where they were and those classes were fantastic.

    So you have to do your homework. And in the end, you may still run into some ridiculous profs from time to time (I once had a philosophy professor who would accept a "really cool" mixed tape in lieu of assignments). But, in general, you shouldn't judge all of academia by the failings of a junior college. There are certain things a JC/CC does VERY well. I have a friend who is an illustrator who learned his craft at a community college. He had an amazing professor who was, at the time he was teaching, a professional illustrator. Unfortunately, many JC/CCs fail when it comes to having quality History, English and Philosophy programs.

    There are strengths and weaknesses in every system. The college/university system is no different. Try to keep an open mind and do what you have to do. Otherwise you run the risk of being the guy who never graduates because he was "too smart for college." I went to school with a few of them. Believe me, the university ends up getting the last laugh.
  4. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributor Contributor

    May 30, 2012
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    I don't think you can base anything on your experience with the Community College system. The types of instructors and the types of students are different from those at a four-year college. This is not to say that there are not some very good instructors who teach at a community college or that there are not some serious students. But the process of how they acquire both students and teachers is different. The goals of a community college are also different. There is a great need for them but the primary goal is to fill needs for more vocational-type jobs and to get some additional education for people who do need it for various reasons but cannot attend a full time program. The goals of the students attending the school encompass a much wider range than for those at a four year college.

    If you're taking advanced English classes, or creative writing classes (as opposed to just general intro-level writing classes) you'll find instructors who want to teach those classes, and students who want to take them. No one is forced to take these types of classes as some sort of distribution or graduation requirement. So the interest level is higher, which makes a huge difference in terms of what you get from the class.

    You don't necessarily have to go to an expensive private school to find excellent writer's programs. At the graduate level, the University of Iowa has one of the most prestigious programs in the world. Illinois State and Arizona have good programs, too. I know that graduate level is not the same as undergraduate level, but the programs are linked, and if you are very interested in the writing program, those places are great to have nearby. (And obviously, you could pursue them at a graduate level later.)

    You need to do your research to determine what schools might fit best for you. Any high caliber school should also have a good quality English department. Any of the flagship state universities should have good programs as well.
  5. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    no one can tell you with any degree of validity, whether you should study writing or art... only you can make that decision, based on what you want to do in life...

    and basing a supposition about higher learning on the personality of one single teacher is not being realistic... do your own homework, check out the schools you can afford to attend and have some chance of being accepted into... then you can ask for info from anyone who's attended your top choices, to help you decide which is best for you...
  6. bob1965

    bob1965 Banned

    Nov 8, 2012
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    Hayward, CA
    You have to go with a classic education first--that means a standard university, if you want to write someday for a living. A state university is best. If you are the smart-type, which your post suggests, you're going to be frustrated, but you need the classic education. From that foundation, and only from that foundation will you find the support you need to be creative when you're out of school and inventing on your own. Go with the standard, classic education. Forget the art school. Stick it out, get your degree, and be the next best author the Western world has ever known. The discipline of tolerating your frustration will do you good--especially if you're as smart as you seem to be.

    Good luck.


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