2.17.2011

Book Learnin'

I'm feeling a real thirst for knowledge these days....basically, wishing I was an undergrad again. What a life! Taking classes in whatever I wanted, learning for the sake of learning, writing papers on things I was not at all qualified to expound upon, and discussing my not-at-all-original ideas with friends and teachers. I didn't appreciate it at the time! But how could I?, I was 21 and miserable.

Also, I had (and, sigh, have) a real guilt about learning for the sake of learning. I have such a conflicted relationship with academia - part of me thinks there could hardly be a better life than to learn and read and write and discuss full time. But the other half of me thinks, how indulgent, how pointless, how privileged. Or is all of that a cover for my fear that I'm not smart enough to partake in such a life, such discussions? Ah well, I don't know if that conflict will ever be resolved.

In an ideal world, if I was going to spend my life studying, I'd to go back to school and get my masters in public health (focuses: epidemiology? reproductive rights? environmental racism?), maybe also a masters or PhD in some sort of urban planning (or just study Anthropology with a focus on Urban Studies? Or maybe a focus on Rural Studies instead....). I'd love to get an undergrad degree in science, and finally understand the natural world around me. There isn't much I wouldn't love to study. Hell, I'd even love to go back and do law school all over again.

Since I'm not headed back to school any time in the near future (or even the future future), I've sort of been putting together syllabi (syllabuseses?) for myself on different topics. (In fact, I recently wrote my college advisor and Anthropology professor asking if she wouldn't mind sending me her syllabi.) One of the "self syllabi," as I'm calling them (which combine books and articles and movies), that I'm putting together is on urban studies stuff (I guess that's a good title for it. My subtitle - I told you, I'm a huge dork - is "city love, rural roots"). So far it's a mix of Mike Davis and Jane Jacobs and this recent book, which is on the top of my reading list as soon as it comes out in paperback (my local library, sadly, doesn't have it).

But I'm realizing that I want there to be a rural component too. I love me some cities, I love thinking about ways they can be changed or planned or lived in to maximum benefit, but I'm a rural girl at heart, and I live in a rural area now - how can we work to make small towns more sustainable, healthy, progressive, economically viable, ecologically responsible, etc? I see so much awesome material on city-love, but know so little about similar work re: rural areas....thoughts, anyone? Reading recommendations (articles, blogs, books, etc)?

(Image: old pic of me reading a great book, William Kunstler's My Life As A Radical Lawyer)

7 comments:

Lisette Murphy said...

ya know- the idea of fishing through your friends for syllabi on a topic of their choice would be REALLY FUN!

V. Furnas said...

As a teacher I love the idea of writing a random syllabi. Think there might be a lesson there...thanks for the ideas...

Amy --- Just A Titch said...

That picture of you is adorable! And I love the self-syllabi idea. I might have to steal it.

jamie said...

books i have read this year which i def recommend:

-A dirty life by kristin kimball about life on a farm
-Poser by Claire Dederer about life and yoga
-about to start the happiness project will let you know how it is

Renai said...

I don't have any suggestions, but I always love hearing about peoples background/experience/views on education. I have about half of a degree in fashion design, a few accounting credits, and some other randoms behind me, but no degree, and no real desire to get one- but I also have a great job.

I've been really into taking community education courses the past year or so, and am loving both the diversity and the cost of learning that way. Plus- no homework :)

Anna said...

I feel the same way. I could be a professional student my whole life and be happy. I love learning.

Sarah said...

I love this idea. i am a PhD student, and I run my own syllabi in online courses from other unoversities works out great on traditional uni subjects like political philosophy, but I'm not sure about how you would do it on a subject like 'greening rural towns' - maybe you've just found the gap in the literature which your PhD could fill! I think mainly greening small towns is about greening transport/infrastructure - thats largely what it is here, anyway (I'm in Australia). I love your blog!