Sunday, February 2, 2014

The 3 Things I've Learned in College (So Far)

Before the thought even begins to tiptoe about the corners of your mind, no, I'm still not writing about Turkey or Africa yet. There are some subjects that are just too large to write about, like love and poverty and how far my heart drops when I'm making a pbj and learn, too late, that the peanut butter jar is empty.


Its been nearly a month since the spring college semester began and so far, I've learned 3 lessons. Not three things in total, of course, I've also learned loads of trivial information about the balance of pathos and ethos in arguments, utility equations, the function and anatomy of neurons, the saturation point of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and that including lesson-related doodles in your graded notes will score extra points (this is rule #3 in action). What I mean is I've discovered three laws of life and the universe at large in the course of these classes, usually at moments like when watching the clock hands stretch the last 15 minutes of class like bitter taffy.
So, without further ado, the 3 things I've learned in college (so far):


#1: Every textbook you read is still a rough draft.

Education is full of rules. Rules from how to structure essays to how gravity works. The master rule about rules, however, is that every rule has it's exception; no "fact" is 100%. Think about science, in particular. There is a set of principles we call "scientific law" however none of them are concretely factual. When it comes to the way our bodies work or the planets stay aligned we have love to pretend that we've figured it out and have printed a final draft on the way the universe works, but the truth is we haven't. Every textbook you read is still a rough draft. If it wan't for a few skeptical students trying to not fall asleep in their classes a few hundred years ago we wouldn't have busted myths like that the Earth is flat or that 'bloodletting' is a safe medical practice.

Think of all the other currently accepted (if unspoken) laws of the universe that we live by:
- The law that something isn't true until posted to social media
- The law that a girl's Halloween costume has to be in some way sexy
-The law that you can't wear white after labor day
- The law that you have to read through 2 pages of personal anecdotes on foodie blogs before you can get to the ingredient list (seriously, has anyone else noticed this?).

All these laws and more could be completely re-written in the next edition of Life 101.The world isn't the final issue of a textbook, its an easily hack-able Wikipedia page.


#2: Nearly everything is influenced by $$$

Take any subject you're studying and you'll find there is a 90% chance that it is somehow influenced by money. The want of money may be the root of all evil but its also the root of education. In Nutrition the way the food pyramid is stacked is largely to do with the money-hungry food manufacturers who funded the stacking. Economics is literally the study of societies make decisions in pursuit of money and the goods people can buy with money. In art history we learn to value paintings by how much money they're worth, even though the teacher cannot really explain why one painting is worth a million dollars and another, $10.

Think about the decisions you make every day, from what to eat for breakfast to who to marry. We go to college to get jobs to make money, we eat food from stores with lower prices, and even our choice of spouse can be rooted in our estimation of their ability to someday provide for a family.

When evaluating this rule I'm comforted by the fact that rule #1 exists, because there are exceptions. Just as humans unconsciously build our lives in pursuit of money, we are capable of selfless acts and strive for things far more valuable like love, forgiveness, and mercy. And writing this blog post, because I'm certainly not being paid to do this. (Though if you'd like to pay me, feel free.)


#3: How to Sound Like I Know What I'm Talking About 

Don't worry, I've stopped spouting pseudo-philosophical theories for now. The final lesson is far more beneficial to you and has helped raise many a grade: how to sound like a smarty pants student even if you don't really understand the concept. The difference between a B or an A on an essay could be chalked up to choices such as using the word 'conflagration' instead of 'fire'. A few tips for sounding smartical:


-Refer to yourself in papers as "this writer" and to other people by their last names. (e.g. "In the end of the blog post the reader began to wonder how sleep deprived Musick was when she penned the words.")

-Sprinkle relevant technical terms onto your homework like bacon bits over a salad: just enough to add academic flavor without making the consumer question if its truly nutritious.

-The thesaurus isn't a kind of dinosaur, its your new best friend.

- READ. The words you pour into your head are going to spill onto your homework, so choose wisely. If your persuasive essay is titled, "Who Wore it Better: The Red Coats or the Blue Coats?" then you might want to ditch the yahoo articles and visit the library. (And not just because libraries have free wifi, and sometimes, little cafes with scrumptious muffins.)


One of the best parts of being in college is this: You FEEL Smart. Sometimes after struggling through a tough chapter or watching Youtube instructional videos until you understand a concept, this rush of smarty pants chemicals rush into your body and a warm, fuzzy feeling of, "Yeah, I KNOW STUFF." is released. Be warned, though, as a side effect of these temporary educational-highs you may begin unconsciously signing Dr. in front of your signatures and write rambling blog posts about the unspoken laws of the universe.