THE COLLAPSE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

as seen through the writings of a college student

This video was produced as a visual companion piece to accompany the argument campaign. (linked below)


Education is not the filling of a pail
but the lighting of a fire
— William Butler Yeats

LINKS TO THIS SEMESTER'S ASSIGNMENTS


This semester was more unique than many I've had since I began my college career 5 years ago. Although I have worked in my career my entire way through college, it was this semester that I decided to jump in with both feet to my career. This experience provided both a difficult time-table to try and juggle as well as a distinct case-study in which I could put my skills into practical use directly after learning them. While I do believe there are many unnecessary abilities acquired through the educational system, the skills obtained through constant wordsmithing are invaluable in all aspects of life. The sheer act of gathering thoughts (both your own and other's) and organizing them on paper benefit the brain's pent-up expressive abilities in ways texting, tweeting, instagraming, or Facebooking might not be able to. We all may hope for a day, many may even believe that day is now, when we can simply download our random stream of consciousness towards a device that will be able to compile it into a cohesive, beautiful essay. I don't believe that day is here, nor do I believe it will come. We too often forget that the written word is a powerful medium for effectual not necessarily efficient communication. Because of the reliance on both author and reader understanding as well as shortening attention spans, the long-form essays will forever seem archaic to the coming generations. Let's leave efficiency to calculation machines and sanitary workers. If writing students of tomorrow take away nothing else from these kinds of writing classes, I would hope it would be an appreciation for the pivotal role writing can and should play in our lives. Writing is meant to be crafted and refined like an artisan's ware of old. It's meant to evoke a deeper understanding and opinion of both the reader and the author. The human brain is too essential to the entire process.

Dear Siri,

I awaited your coming with the excitement of a child on Christmas Eve. I looked forward to reading with perfect comprehension and writing with mistake-free grammar and punctuation without even lifting a finger. I truly believed, through the leaps and bounds of technology, you were everything they said you would be and more. For this reason, I did not fear a semester of lower-division intermediate writing assignments. However, you have not lived up to your side of the bargain, and the time has come to think about our future together. We should honestly evaluate what it is we really want and need from one another. You may be helpful at reminding me of an appointment, or maybe even telling me a nerdy joke of some sort, but you certainly have not filled the academic void which I faced these last few months. I wrongly assumed you would be there for me, listening to my every word, crafting together a perfect narrative among the likes of Dickens or Twain. Over the last semester, I've learned the cruciality of the human element in expository writing. While you, Cortana, Watson, or even Hal may be able to whisper techno-sweet nothings in my ear, you all lack the ability to synthesize the views, opinions, feelings and impressions of humans and turn it into pure scholastic gold. 

Like you, I never realized just how difficult to grasp the nuances of human communication can be when put into the written word. After I realized you had let me down, it required me to use my own reasoning power (with a little help from your uncle Google), and sift through camps of opinions and conclusions. As I searched through and analyzed the academic writings of our decided topic, I became aware of the complications which can arise when information mingles with opinion. I want you to know I completely understand the problems you face with our species, as I too faced a similar struggle. Without body language, intonation, and other visual cues, I misunderstood or inadvertently bypassed crucial nuggets of understanding as well. But, unlike you, I returned to the papers and read and re-read to better understand the voice of the author. Look, when it comes down to it, I need someone who is programed with more than input/output understanding in ones and zeros. Perhaps I need to better engage my own brain in thinking critically about both what I read and what I write... or maybe I'll just wait for you to receive another update.

Sincerely,

Quincy Boardman       

P.S. It's not me, it's you.

This class of academic writing and research techniques was beneficial in it's approach of constant writing and revision. I learned the step-by-step methodology to researching and writing leads to a far better end-product. Instead of trying to spit out an entire essay in one sitting, it was incredibly helpful to, as an example, organize the initial research into an annotated bibliography for future reference throughout the writing process. While I do believe my writing improved in this class, it feels "broken" at the moment. This class forced me to look at bad habits and unfortunate patterns I've accrued over the years and, like an improperly healed fracture in a bone, needed to be re-broken and set straight again. For this reason, I wish I would have taken this class at the first of my time in college rather than the end. I believe it would have helped improve essays produced for other courses along the way. Fortunately, all is not lost, and I will be able to continue to work towards more proper writing techniques in my career field.

Ultimately, the most important lesson I've learned the last few months is this concept of human-centered writing. It's common for academics to speak pretentiously and without empathy in academic writing. This may be viewed in a positive light within the walls of higher education, but when viewed through the lens of practicality, it becomes problematic. There are wonderful topics which are pertinent to troubles we face in the world today, yet they fall flat because they lack an emotional, pathos-infused rhetoric in order to sound superior. This writings had the voice of a robot, like Siri. There were certainly examples of this style of writing in the research I did, but there were others which successfully connected to the mortal instincts and sentiments, making them far more successful. This is the characteristic I hope to cary on in my future writings.