Archive for the ‘school’ Category

Education Revolution

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Education has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, the state of most education systems in the world.  A pretty hefty subject, but it seems to have continually cropped up within my social networking sphere the past couple months.

I ran across two of William Deresiewicz’s essays, one titled “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” and the second, “What are You Going to Do with That?”  Both gave me a lot to think about, in terms of my own educational history, the paths I’ve chosen to take along the way, as well as the outward factors that influenced those decisions.

The two essays reminded me of another I’d read years ago when I was seeing M, who was very education-focused, as he was the co-owner of an ESL school.  I learned a lot through M, and he pointed me to the essayist, VC, and entrepreneur Paul Graham.  The essay I remember is the one entitled “How to Do What You Love.”

At the same time that I was discovering these articles, I also came across the wonderful RSA Animate series.  I saw the video on changing Education Paradigms:


And immediately went in search of more information on Sir Ken Robinson.  That was how I came across his two TEDTalks on radically changing the education system:

Vodpod videos no longer available.


And finally, another TEDTalk, this time by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs:

Random thoughts:

I agree, quite emphatically, with all of them.  I have only my personal history and observations to draw on, but I believe the education system is irreparably flawed and in need of radical change.  While I was trained and cultivated throughout my childhood precisely to succeed in the linear model of the current system, it was rarely a satisfying experience except when I took those classes that completely deviated from the norm.

From William Deresiewicz’s essays I find a lot that strikes a chord in me, along with a bit of residual bitterness and dissatisfaction with my college experience.  But it is equally true that I’m grateful for opportunity to go to college without incurring nearly the level of debt that many of my peers faced after graduation (before disowning me for the second time, my mother almost completely covered my academic fees).

Although it was an unpleasant experience at the time, I now see that event – being disowned and the withdrawal of financial support – as probably the most useful in helping me break free of my mother’s influence over my future and my decisions.  I saw clearly her overwhelming desire to simultaneously see me as an adult and keep me continually semi-dependent on her, in the often distorted way that parents define and express their love.

I was also able to feel less guilty about breaking off the path she’d so carefully cultivated for me ever since I was born.  I have since made a lot of pretty crazy decisions, like driving across the country without knowing where I’d end up.  I’ve made my share of mistakes, of course, but in the long run I’ve been incalculably happier than I think I ever would have been with the options that were laid out for me by familial precedence.  I am constantly amazed that things seem to be working out, and this is, I believe, because of the narrow model of success I’d been taught.

Now, whenever I see my family, my mother often remarks that I will likely be the one with the lowest degree in our household.  I never have a response to that, but I sincerely cannot believe that the pursuit of an advanced degree is the right choice for me right now.  Still, it’s hard to take her sometimes scathing comments, even though I understand her motivation is to shame me into “making more of myself.”

I came to another realization while reading and listening to all of these thoughts: I have, since entering college, felt a kind of self-loathing and sense of being a fake or fraud for enrolling at such a prestigious school.  Although my primary interests lay in the arts, especially in graphic arts and design, and despite the fact that I endeavored to take an art class almost every term, I never put much weight on the talents I had in visual media; it wasn’t a real or useful life skill.  Yet I also never felt compelled to pursue more lucrative options.  I defaulted to biology, because at least I was also interested in ecology, and because Jane Goodall had been my childhood idol.  It was also a safe choice that my family could accept – biology could mean a path to a medical field.  But I never felt truly immersed in the material except during labs or outdoor excursions.

It’s only now, two years out of the academic sphere, that I can finally admit to myself how much more I’m actually interested in things that fall under the often-stigmatized heading of “skilled labor” – things like woodworking, metalcraft, and leathercraft.

There are also other views to take on the people I’ve linked to and what they have to say; a look at the comments sections of Mr. Deresiewicz’s articles is telling of the scorn people feel for an academic scholar criticizing the system that helped shape his career.  And I could argue that most of the people I knew personally fell outside the kind of privileged students he describes.  But I also have to admit to having a circle of friends who were more the exception than the rule at our school.

Regardless, I can personally attest to being the recipient of all the stereotypical comments one hears made to smart people who don’t pursue the well-trodden path: I’m not applying myself, I’m wasting my talents, my degree, and my future, I could succeed if only I were more motivated, I’m making a huge mistake.

I believed all of that, and I was weighed down by the belief that I was being intentionally self-destructive and the belief that I was a failure not only to my family and friends but also to my own intrinsic potential.


Reading these essays and watching the TEDTalks, as well as hearing stories every now and then about others who’ve also taken unconventional paths and were successful – using a much broader rubric for defining success – continues to encourage me and help me believe that I am, in fact, capable of a successful, happy life, even if the path in front of me is only vaguely defined and involves a lot of bushwhacking.


Categories: art, geekpost, hope, life, links, school, video

“What Teachers Make”

January 25, 2010 3 comments

Old but classic video. To all the teachers I am reminded of every time I listen to this slam poem by Taylor Mali: this is for you.

He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?” (hahaha)
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about
Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach. (hahaha)

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the urge to remind the other dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

“I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?”

And I wish he hadn’t done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
which is if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence.
No, you can not work in groups.
No, you can’t ask a question, so put your hand down.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored and you don’t really have to go, do you?

You want to know what I make?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home at around dinner time:
Hi, this is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son did today.
He said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage that I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and who they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over again until they will
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And then hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them realize that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
based on what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?

By Taylor Mali

Categories: art, humor, memories, school, video


February 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Inside, the smell of turpentine and oil paint coats every surface.  Outside, the sky is grey as melting snow.  You’re at your easel by the window, watching the snowy drizzle outside in the few moments before class starts.  The soft drumming of water drops falling on pavement thrums a melodic rhythm in the space behind your eyes, lulling and heavy on your eyelids.

It is as if from far away that you hear the professor calling class to order.  Fighting inertia, you turn away from the window.

And come face to face with a nude male standing in the center of the room, cast from chocolate – extra dark.  You groan inwardly at the sugar-coated metaphor even as your tongue flicks across dry lips.  You watch as the model stretches quickly before striking his first pose.  His body is all sinew and tight muscle, and you have to look away, down at your paints, to stop the sudden fluttering below your stomach.  Working quickly now for this five minute pose, you examine the smears of color on your palette.  How can you bring out the richness of that velvet skin?  You mix some earth colors together – burnt sienna, burnt umber – and add a smudge of alizarin crimson and phthalo blue.  A little cadmium yellow gives the paint a hint of a glow.

Your paintbrush now saturated with the rich mixture, you finally turn back to the model.  He is good, body tight as he maintains his position without too much wavering.  Another point of admiration.  Your eyes trace the curve of his spine, then sweeps down his defined pectorals, sleek 6-pack, and finally comes to rest on his serenely flaccid penis, hanging between splayed legs.  You can’t help admiring its length, even non-erect, and a small shiver runs through you as your imagination plays with his cock, working it up to its full, majestic erection and guiding it, first past your lips and down your throat, then slowly inside you, incredibly thick and filling in a way you had forgotten was possible.

A flash of white jars you out of your reverie, and you look up – straight into his eyes.  Heat rushes up your cheeks, and your eyes drop back to your still-blank canvas.

Just in time for your professor to call time.

sleep junkie, etc

November 25, 2006 1 comment

I’ve clocked over 40 hours of sleep since Tuesday night. And given our family’s aversion to turkey, that can’t be blamed on any tryptophan-induced comas.

Granted, I barely slept over 4 hours a night the weekend before break started, but it’s still amazing how hard I crashed once I got home.

My lack of energy is depressing. I’m very tired even when I am awake, and I take frequent naps throughout the day. It doesn’t make for a very productive schedule, and I do have a lot of work for classes. I’m heading back up to school tomorrow to shoot my animation, and I need to have all the drawings done.

The lack of energy also has consequences elsewhere – namely, the lack of orgasms. Between sleep, helping prepare for Thanksgiving dinner (the most non-traditional one we’ve had yet), and the little drawing I have done, sexual satisfaction has definitely taken a backseat.

It’s also that time of month.

Which is just the cherry on top of a rather sucky week…

I can’t deny that I miss the sex, kink, and play. I’ve had almost nonstop visuals of begin taken forcefully; of hair pulled back, of greedy lips and teeth and hands; of wordless possession. I’m bombarded by the memories of our last couple sessions. How ironic that it was during that last meeting, which I knew would be the last, that I felt I submitted the most…gave of myself completely, and felt complete.
It feels wrong, but I can’t help it.

The lust is the problem. Only now do I realize how dangerously addicting lust is. I try to fight it, to forget the need I felt in his grasping hands and in his lips, and how that need fueled my own…it is a vicious cycle.

And I also remember the sage advice I received once, from a complete stranger no less, to “go with [my] gut, not with [my] heart, or brain, or the part that thinks, ‘I need a man.'”

That is all I can think right now. I need a man.

Sometimes, I don’t know why I make myself so vulnerable here. Writing posts has become a push and pull of wills, emotions, and reasoning lately.

Categories: life, school, sundry


October 8, 2006 4 comments

There is this sculpture in a little courtyard between the Art Center and the students’ studios. It is a massive, rust-red steel contraption that could invoke images of sweat, muscle, masculinity, bright sparks and coal dusted workshops, but instead sits quietly under the shade of a sugar maple. The reason for this, I think, is because of the wooden platform suspended horizontally by four thick chains that juts out from the sculpture. On closer inspection, one realizes that there are also cables connecting the chains of the platform to a balanced piece of steel that rests in the middle of the sculpture, itself supported by cables so that it can also swing freely.

I sat on that wooden platform with a late lunch today, basking in the abnormally warm weather. I began with three layers as I headed to the studio from the dorm, but by the time I got to the door of the painting studio, I was sweating. I peeled off my sweatshirt and stopped by the cafe for food and drink. Then, sitting outside on that lowslung platform, I realized that I had chosen the perfect spot at the perfect time of day, so that the sun was angled right over the other buildings and trees and shone directly into the courtyard. Specifically, it lit the sculpture and platform in the kind of golden glow only possible in October.

My longsleeve tae kwon do shirt came off as well, leaving me in ridiculously comfortable sweatpants and a tank top. As I ate, it only seemed to get warmer. I love Indian summer, and although I knew I had to get to work on my paintings, I lounged outside for as long as I could, laying on the platform and looking up at the filtered sky through bright yellow maple leaves. It was like a shot for a Canon or Kodak commercial, the impossibly perfect family snapshots in bright primary colors.

It was beautiful.

I’m getting better from my cold, thank goodness. I’m also incredibly sore from a two and a half hour soccer tournament I played yesterday, in similarly glorious weather. Not only soccer; barefoot 3-on-3 soccer. Thus the bruise in the soft flesh on the inside curve of my foot. Ouch.

In other news…Well, what other news does a college student have to offer? Courses, procrastination, self-introspection…sex. Yes, there is always that. As I find myself growing exceedingly more people-comfortable and a bit less socially awkward, I’ve also discovered just how right my group of friends fit into my personality. Such wonderful people, and lately I’ve realized just how openly sexual they can be…watching porn together as a form of entertainment, sometimes of a decidedly tasteless kind (hmmmm, tasteful porn…does that exist? I think so.), for laughs (Pornosaurus? Pteradactyl sex? Heh…)

Anyway, that wasn’t really going anywhere; but, in terms of myself, well, there has been a constant, humming horniness vibrating just under my skin, forming images in my head when it can, leaving me sometimes daydreaming in between lapses of concentration. There is an empty ache, and a tingling longing on my skin for contact with another’s skin.

Categories: art, life, school, sundry

a continued beginning

September 24, 2006 2 comments

Another term. I’m going into this fall term both with feelings of trepidation and immense excitement. Excitement for the subjects themselves; trepidation that I won’t be able to put full effort into any one course.

A painting class, a 3-D modeling class, a linguistics class, and an independent study.

At any school that runs on the semester system rather than the quarter system, 4 classes seems – normal at best, maybe even paltry compared to students’ 4, 5, 6 course loads. But at 9 weeks or so a term, information is jam-packed into each class, there is no room for slacking or falling behind.

This term, I can’t get sick. God help me if I do. I am popping multivitamins and drinking plenty of water, trying to exercise more…

Between my 2 jobs and my classes, I have developed an increasing paranoia of my time-management. Nothing is good enough, efficient enough, fast enough. I still haven’t learned to pace myself. It’s still all or nothing. But I can’t afford to keep doing that.

Well, enough whining for now. If anything suffers, it will be my independent study. But hopefully my professor will help keep me on my toes.

Perhaps something more palatable to write about will surface later. For now … more modeling.

Categories: school


August 22, 2006 Leave a comment

I stepped outside to go to class this morning, and felt a gust of autumn-y, nostalgia-laden wind. It reminded me of the crackle of frost, and then I looked down and saw a cluster of red maple leaves. The sight captured me, as if I’d been frozen in time … or transported back into a past season, or all past seasons. I shook myself free and leaned into my walk, nose searching for that whiff of autumn I had sensed – or had I just remembered it?

The mixture of past memories and present reality stayed with me until I entered the arts center. The spell broke.

There is still a lot of work to be done. I am excited for the term to end, and for the new one to begin. Fall term. Looking forward to pumpkin carving, Homecoming, bonfires, hikes under the changing canopy, the privilege of living in a shiny new dorm, the incoming freshmen, and classes, classes, classes.

Categories: ethereal, reflection, school