Friday, July 2, 2010

Learning For Learnings Sake. An Outdated Concept?

San Rafael Yacht Harbor, Marin County California

Raphael's School of Athens
After writing my blog post entitled "What to Do for a Second Career", I got to thinking hard about the topic. I was further spurred along after Mike, formerly of sailing vessel Two Lazy Dogs sent me a long and thoughtful email about the topic.

Am I career minded? I do not necessarily want to proceed through my coming college education with an end state in mind. To attend for the sole purpose of being hired at company X Y or Z has been described as "commidification of a degree." An end state goal may even sabotage my college experience by distracting me from areas of interest that are not qualifications based. If my end state was to earn decent sums of money, I wouldn't need to go to college. I'm confident enough that I could make it happen with my current resume and stock pile of wisdom and life experience. But I do think that learning for learning's sake is out of reach for most.

I absolutely don't look down on anyone who strives to make serious bank. Bank is good. In fact I'd love make some bank myself, but the method for me is critical. The method of earning for me trumps all.

To an extent learning for learning's sake is an outdated concept as it applies to attending an institution of Higher Learning. To attend school is so expensive and only the wealthy can afford to attend just for the satisfaction one gets by learning. Us mortals likely will have to take some of this knowledge and apply it to earning a living. Which means some sort of career focus courses are required. The practicality of the situation demands schools loans to be paid and housing costs met ect.

The shame of this is that to live a richer and fuller life requires knowledge and passion for things that don't necessarily translate directly into dollars. A bicycle enthusiast can enjoy a day long bike ride through surrounding hills and really enjoy it. But someone who has knowledge of geography can marvel at the lay of the land and someone who has taken a cellular biology class will enjoy the burn of the ride that much more having knowledge of ATP transport. The addition of information creates a level of enjoyment not realized by the uneducated. This example applies across the gamet of living a life.

This all sounds pretty highfalutin. And it is. But what's wrong with a little highfalutin? I wonder at 43 does my college purpose differ from someone just entering from High School? In practical terms it does (make a difference) simply due to the difference in financial condition. But in terms of gaining knowledge to live a healthy and flourishing life it should not. But everyone is different. When I graduated from High School I had zero context and the notion that knowledge of art could lead to happiness was as foreign and upsetting as a Boy George concert. While for others it was less foreign, just enough to give a good teacher an opening to let them see the light early on.

I am very grateful that I have seen the light, even if a bit late. Maybe everyone starts to do some deeper thinking when they hit their 40's. My situation allows me an assist from a university environment and hopefully I can find the mean between fulfilling a need for specialized training for future employment and my desire to acquire knowledge for knowledge sake.

Capt Chris

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Christa Resides Marina Side

San Rafael, Marin County California

I was launched and had the mast re-stepped simultaneously late last week. I've had a great experience using San Rafael Yacht Harbor for all my boating needs. I saved some dough by switching last minute to SRYH in lieu of KKMI shipyard.

San Rafael Yacht Harbor
 I'll wait a bit to give more details on my surroundings and other boat related issues. Suffice to say now, that it is wonderful to be in a slip, in a marina with 3 Starbucks, 1 Peets Coffee, 1 Whole Foods, 1 Trader Joe's and a Border's all less than a mile away. Convenience is well convenient.
Admissions Office Dominican University of California
 Speaking of convenient. I've managed to situate my living arrangements within a mile of Dominican University campus. And what a campus it is. Pictured above is the admissions office. The best way to describe the campus is to say it's like walking around an arboretum. The campus resides among huge Red Woods, with small wooden bridges spanning stream beds and wooden benches sprinkled through out. Large groomed grass lawns circled by restored buildings from the late 1890's, to ultra modern multi-million dollar science and engineering centers.

A student can't help but glide down what amounts to the Yellow Brook Road. The Humanities Chair, Dr Harlen remarked to me during our skull session that the campus is a major selling point. And it is. I felt pretty smart just striding and gliding around.

Science Center
 Since splashing Christa, I've been up to the university several times to meet with my academic adviser to map out my future. Here is some detail on what I have gotten myself into. I have entered a program called Pathways. Pathways is an adult education driven program designed for working adults with more than six years of post high school employment and at least 50 transferable credits. But here is the bonus. Given Dominicans small size (roughly 2500 students total) it allows the school mucho flexibility and one on one instruction and advice. The Pathways program has several paths to choose from. One path involves what they call a cohort. 25 adult students form a cohort and follow a course of instruction that is set in stone, both academically and schedule wise. The cohort stays together for two full years and graduate with an Applied Humanities Degree. Emphasis on applied. With heavy guidance from several Professor's, the cohort applies in the real world things they are taught while in class. The cohort decides on the direction or emphasis in consultation with the PHD people. For example, one of the classes is a Sustainable Communities class. So somewhere along the line the cohort will devise a project involving sustainability and apply it in the community, document it and then give a presentation on the results. While all this stuff sounds pretty cool I have decided to go in a  more traditional direction.

I am in the Pathways Flex program, which still is an adult type program, but allows me to take classes during the day with the younger traditional crowd, hence the word flex. I will earn a Humanities and Cultural Studies degree with an emphasis of my choosing in consultation with the academic adviser. What is going on is, the university pokes and prods the student (me) to try and flush out what the career goal is post degree. Armed with this information, a set of instruction is crafted to give the student the most cutting edge information and the degree to go with it; so the student is uber marketable and prepared. But, the university has built in flexibility, so as the student is exposed to multiple fields of study (and in turn future occupations) a course correction is possible. For example, I think I'd like to be a teacher. In the near term I will be exposed to some classroom scenario and if I decide it's not my gig and I would like to explore the world of start-ups in Silicon Valley, a business degree plan is easily implemented. Clearly the earlier things are identified the more expeditious the education and the less money spent.

Having said all that, my initial thought is an emphasis on philosophy and pre-Law or maybe history. It simply is to early for me to make decisions. But I have registered for my first term starting August 23, 2010. My three classes are Foundations of Adult Learning, Advanced Writing and Critical Inquiry and an Art Class for a total of 9 credit hours. But during the term I will also be writing an essay that could be credited as 3 credit hours if it is up to snuff. So maybe I'm taking a full course load deemed 12 credits. Depends on how you look at it. The essay can be deferred and is part of the flex in case a new student is overwhelmed after not being in college for perhaps many years.

This is the culmination of one goal and the beginning of a new one. I have such a deep satisfaction after registering today for my coming program. It was no small step to decide while in the Eastern Caribbean to change direction, apply to school, get accepted, work the financial piece and then journey to San Rafael. It took over a year to accomplish just that aspect. I must continue to plow ahead and make the best decisions with the information at hand.

I'll report soon on the many other things I have been doing or thinking about.

Capt Chris

PS: Fully 3/4 of the student population is female. I may need a course of instruction on how to negotiate that fact.