Monday, September 5, 2011

Labour Day: Reflections on My Education

Working at a university and living across the street from a high school, I am acutely aware of the back-to-school excitement ringing through the air this September. Forever a student/learner at heart, I'll satisfy my yearning to truly return to school by reflecting on my academic career thus far.

I've graduated a total of seven times: kindergarten, elementary, junior high, high school, college, university (b.a.) and university (m.a.). My brother constantly jokes about how many graduations I've had - that he's, of course, had to attend.

I was in the "smart," a.k.a. maths/sciences, stream in high school until I started flunking out of the advanced classes in grade 10. This led to two reasonable pre-university programs at my local college: liberal arts vs. social science.

I was drawn to liberal arts by their seemingly close knit community and (I'm not going to lie) sense of elitism that came from studying "great books."

I even got a taste of Native history in college through the mandatory "ethics" offering--but I'm ashamed to admit my grade in that class probably fell somewhere around the middle.

By the time it came to apply to university, I was aching for something different. I wanted to study what was happening and what affected me now, not Plato, the Industrial Age and Chaucer. So I enrolled into a bachelor's of communications. I was so excited for my very first university class, Popular Culture, and was only slightly jaded to find that the course was more about reading Bordieux than watching the Simpsons.

Sometime over the course of that three year degree, I became more concerned with my eventual career and began taking what I deemed to be more serious courses than the ones that actually interested me. So, by the end of my time at that university, I had a b.a. honours in communications, I think with some emphasis or other on organizations.

But, I'd been taking as many Native-type courses as I could throughout my b.a. and decided that I wasn't finished yet. I wanted to look further, through an academic lens, into the ways of my people and our history. So I applied and was thankfully accepted into an m.a. in Canadian studies. I went into Canadian studies only because it housed the Native studies stream, and instead I received the added bonus of exposure to "critical thinking."

My m.a. program successfully (I hope) educated me on all the "isms": racism, sexism, classism, ablism, etc. I was happy to learn about these things because they made so much sense. Suddenly I had concepts and theories to go along with phenomena I'd seen my whole life. But another part of me was angry--angry that I had to reach the graduate level before even a mild exposure to these critical areas.

After that, I must admit, I scorned the disciplines I'd learned in my college and undergrad. Wished I'd gone into sociology or women's studies or some other area that was more critical.

Until recently.

After beginning this blog, joining twitter, publicizing the events we put on at work--I realize I genuinely like communicating messages. I've come back to valuing my diverse education, and even crediting my undergraduate experiences with allowing me to have a truly interdisciplinary way of structuring my graduate work.

So, I guess you can say, I've come full circle. Where to next?

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