Quote of the Day: Taking Aimless

 

“Sometimes being aimless helps you discover where to aim.” — Russ Roberts

All the talk these days about frivolous college studies has me remembering some of my endeavors at the University of California, Santa Barbara, 1977-1981, that would make me question the academic and career seriousness of a kid doing so today.

  • Started as an English major, the original “What are you going to do with THAT?” major.
  • Took a class on popular culture that mostly involved watching classic movies (hey, it’s where I fell in love with Casablanca, so money well spent!).
  • Took a class that attempted to teach French through the watching of French movies.
  • Crocheted during my classes instead of taking notes.
  • When I didn’t know the answer in an essay test, wrote a short story in which characters debated the two possible answers.
  • Took up a professor’s challenge to memorize the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” instead of taking a final exam.
  • Switched to a Literature major in the College of Creative Studies, a ’60s holdover with no grades and no tests.
  • Took a class called “Undergraduate Bibles,” which included Catcher in the Rye and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and … something by Tom Robbins, maybe Even Cowgirls Get the Blues?
  • Wrote a paper on Doonesbury, complete with comic strips Scotch-taped onto my typed pages as quotations.
  • When looking in the job placement office for my post-college career starter, filled out a portfolio for a job at Hallmark Cards just because it seemed hilarious to me.
  • Got the job, worked there a year and a half, then left because it was intolerable that they would not do things my way but instead fell back on their, you know, decades and decades of profitable business experience.

And even now, when I’m an old lady and would like young people to get off my lawn and also stop majoring in gender studies, I have to admit that this sort of nonsense worked for me. Maybe I’m a little sorry that it’s no longer financially feasible to be kinda unfocused and unserious and aimless in one’s college studies and early career. Just another of the billion or so reasons to Make College Affordable Again.

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  1. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Terri Mauro:

    Just another of the billion or so reasons to Make College Affordable Again.

    By not having the government pay for it.

    • #1
  2. Retail Lawyer Member
    Retail Lawyer
    @RetailLawyer

    But I bet you lived like a pauper compared to the modern UCSB student.  

    • #2
  3. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Terri Mauro:

    • Started as an English major, the original what are you going to do with THAT major.
    • Took a class on popular culture that mostly involved watching classic movies (hey, it’s where I fell in love with Casablanca, so money well spent!).
    • Took a class that attempted to teach French through the watching of French movies.

    Near as I can tell we as a society have mixed two different goals for education, and they aren’t necessarily aligned.

    • Education to make you more employable
    • Education for the cultivation of the soul

    An English major is a fine thing for cultivating the soul, and I think we value that far less than we ought to. The skills you learn with an English major (the ability to express yourself clearly in writing, the ability to read and understand what someone is saying, a commendable command of grammar, the wisdom to avoid run-on sentences) are useful in the job market, but in theory we could probably teach all that in a quarter of the time. But all the other things you get from reading the great books and memorizing the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (by the way, did that work out?) that stuff is important even if it doesn’t make you directly more employable.

    Knowing what you’re aiming for and bending your whole soul’s tasking towards achieving it is good for a limited few who get that certainty early. For many of us who don’t know instinctually that we want to be an astronaut and nothing else by the age of ten I think a bit of unfocused exploration is probably better than looking up a career path by graduate placement ratios and betting on that.

    • #3
  4. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    Terri Mauro:

    • When I didn’t know the answer in an essay test, wrote a short story in which characters debated the two possible answers.

    Also that, how well did that work out for you? I got an “A” in a philosophy class for writing a paper comparing Rousseau and Denis Diderot’s ideas of where morality originated and concluding that neither of them know what they’re talking about. I can imagine a lot of essay questions that strategy would have worked for.

    • #4
  5. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Terri Mauro: Took up a professor’s challenge to memorize the Rime of the Ancient Mariner instead of taking a final exam.

    I’d like to know how this one turned out. Were you successful? Did you get an A? Did you have to recite it in front of the whole class, write it in a blue book, perform it for the professor in his office?

    • #5
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Love it. I still haven’t really figured what I want to do when I grow up. Luckily, growing up does not seem to be on my near horizon. I tried it once when I was young, and it didn’t work out.

    • #6
  7. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Terri Mauro:

    Just another of the billion or so reasons to Make College Affordable Again.

    By not having the government pay for it.

    I was fortunate to be in college when the government of California made it possible for residents of California to go to a University of California at an affordable rate, such that my dad could pay for my education and leave me unsaddled with debt. That level of government participation seemed helpful. (I hear that’s no longer the case for UCs, or is it that the UCs now prioritize out-of-state students from whom they can get more money, and it’s hard for locals to get in?)

    • #7
  8. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Retail Lawyer (View Comment):

    But I bet you lived like a pauper compared to the modern UCSB student.  

    I haven’t been back to UCSB in so long. Is Isla Vista swank now? 

    • #8
  9. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Internet's Hank (View Comment):
    An English major is a fine thing for cultivating the soul, and I think we value that far less than we ought to. The skills you learn with an English major (the ability to express yourself clearly in writing, the ability to read and understand what someone is saying, a commendable command of grammar, the wisdom to avoid run-on sentences) are useful in the job market, but in theory we could probably teach all that in a quarter of the time. But all the other things you get from reading the great books and memorizing the Rime of the Ancient Mariner (by the way, did that work out?) that stuff is important even if it doesn’t make you directly more employable.

    The advantage of the College of Creative Studies literature program, however hippie-dippie it appeared, was that you did just a ton of writing. It gave me confidence that I could write, and write about anything, and that did wind up making me employable, in a variety of ways. The head of the College then, Marvin Mudrick, was a writer of literary criticism and a dynamic teacher and when he liked your work or gave you some attention, it meant something. I’m so glad I had that experience, and that I had it at 1970s prices.

    • #9
  10. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Terri Mauro: Took up a professor’s challenge to memorize the Rime of the Ancient Mariner instead of taking a final exam.

    I’d like to know how this one turned out. Were you successful? Did you get an A? Did you have to recite it in front of the whole class, write it in a blue book, perform it for the professor in his office?

    Terri Mauro:

    • When I didn’t know the answer in an essay test, wrote a short story in which characters debated the two possible answers.

    Also that, how well did that work out for you?

    I had to write the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in a blue book, and it turns out, there is not enough time in a final exam period to hand-write the whole ridiculous lengthy thing. But I got an A, for audacity maybe. I think the professor was tickled someone took him up on the challenge.

    The short story … sadly, I don’t remember how that turned out. I don’t think I failed. It was for a big lecture class (as opposed to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner thing, which was a smaller group), so I hope I gave some poor TA going through hundreds of blue books a little laugh, anyway.

    • #10
  11. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Terri Mauro (View Comment):

    Retail Lawyer (View Comment):

    But I bet you lived like a pauper compared to the modern UCSB student.

    I haven’t been back to UCSB in so long. Is Isla Vista swank now?

    It wasn’t in the middle to late 90’s when I was contracting/living @ SBRC which had their offices on Hollister across from the mobile home park. Getting something inexpensive and quick to eat with views that a youngish feeling man in his early 40’s could appreciate (but never engage with, they were way to vacuous) was a bonus. Still struck me as two steps above homeless chic, between the external decor of the accommodations, and natty dressing habits of the student populations.

    Typical low impact student population.

    • #11
  12. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    Terri Mauro (View Comment):
    I had to write the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in a blue book, and it turns out, there is not enough time in a final exam period to hand-write the whole ridiculous lengthy thing. But I got an A, for audacity maybe. I think the professor was tickled someone took him up on the challenge.

    I had a college roommate who was given the three potential essay questions that would be on the final during the review session. He answered the three essays in three different blue books. Then he arrived to the final a minute or two late and received the final as he walked to his desk. This allowed him to see which question the professor chose and which blue book he needed to pull out. He then answered all of the other questions and pretended to write an essay to fill the time. A lot of work, but maybe he ended up learning more that way.

    • #12
  13. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):
    A lot of work, but maybe he ended up learning more that way.

    Extra experience writing, anyway, and that’s always worth it.

    • #13
  14. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Terri, your story is amazingly like my own — in that I also read both Catcher in the Rye and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

    (I liked the first one quite a lot.)

    • #14
  15. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Terri, your story is amazingly like my own — in that I also read both Catcher in the Rye and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

    (I liked the first one quite a lot.)

    I would definitely not have pegged you for a Catcher in the Rye fan.

    • #15
  16. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    We at the mostly science and engineering oriented UC Irvine at about the same time assumed UCSB students never studied because they spent all their time surfing. (:

     

    • #16
  17. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    Terri Mauro (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Terri Mauro:

    Just another of the billion or so reasons to Make College Affordable Again.

    By not having the government pay for it.

    I was fortunate to be in college when the government of California made it possible for residents of California to go to a University of California at an affordable rate, such that my dad could pay for my education and leave me unsaddled with debt. That level of government participation seemed helpful. (I hear that’s no longer the case for UCs, or is it that the UCs now prioritize out-of-state students from whom they can get more money, and it’s hard for locals to get in?)

    As noted, I attended UC Irvine at about the same time. I know the State of California heavily subsidized UC at the time, so tuition was only a few hundred dollars a (quarter? year?). But the overall costs of the system were then still modest. We could find all the Vice Chancellors on the campus in a few hours because there were only a few of them, and most of them were in one building. Now there are dozens of them, and they all have vast bureaucracies. We did not have an extensive list of Associate and Assistant Deans in each school (most schools had one of each – an Associate Dean who handled academic scheduling, and one Assistant Dean who handled administrative matters like personnel and facilities). Almost all professors taught undergraduate courses. Now many professors never step in front of an undergraduate class, yet still get nice salaries. There was one (in Irvine’s case) student cafeteria on campus for those of us who did not live on campus. No elaborate food court. Off campus options were a noodle place across the street and a Bob’s Big Boy a half mile down the street. Most of us off-campus students brought brown bag lunches. No fancy exercise facility. Campus medical office was a couple of rooms in which a nurse and sometimes a medical doctor could provide short-term care for relative emergencies. Now it’s a full medical facility with multiple medical doctors offering a wide range of medical care.  

    • #17
  18. Terri Mauro Coolidge
    Terri Mauro
    @TerriMauro

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    We at the mostly science and engineering oriented UC Irvine at about the same time assumed UCSB students never studied because they spent all their time surfing. (:

    I didn’t know anybody who surfed, I don’t think. It was the partying that kept them from studying. :)

    • #18
  19. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Terri, your story is amazingly like my own — in that I also read both Catcher in the Rye and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance!

    (I liked the first one quite a lot.)

    I would definitely not have pegged you for a Catcher in the Rye fan.

    Salinger, Nabokov, Roth, and Amis (Martin) are probably my four favorite modern novelists. Not necessarily in that order.

    • #19
  20. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Terri Mauro (View Comment):

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    Terri Mauro: Took up a professor’s challenge to memorize the Rime of the Ancient Mariner instead of taking a final exam.

    I’d like to know how this one turned out. Were you successful? Did you get an A? Did you have to recite it in front of the whole class, write it in a blue book, perform it for the professor in his office?

    Terri Mauro:

    • When I didn’t know the answer in an essay test, wrote a short story in which characters debated the two possible answers.

    Also that, how well did that work out for you?

    I had to write the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in a blue book, and it turns out, there is not enough time in a final exam period to hand-write the whole ridiculous lengthy thing. But I got an A, for audacity maybe. I think the professor was tickled someone took him up on the challenge.

    The short story … sadly, I don’t remember how that turned out. I don’t think I failed. It was for a big lecture class (as opposed to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner thing, which was a smaller group), so I hope I gave some poor TA going through hundreds of blue books a little laugh, anyway.

    As a TA grading papers, I would have loved you for it and given you at least partial credit for the effort and my own sheer delight.  I definitely graded on an effort curve and was tougher on good students and easier on those I could see were struggling and trying hard.  Maybe not entirely fair…but in the end those who deserved A’s got them and the strugglers passed, but with C’s and D’s.

    • #20
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