Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Active reading: Using research to satisfy our curiousity

I think our lives are incredibly busy.  Sometimes our schedule or our past experience with school (some people describe their educational experience much like time in prison?!) makes it very hard to get excited about learning new things, and developing skills and viewpoints across a wide sprectrum of knowledge.  That's what a liberal arts education at a public university is here for, but I think without individual curiousity and some hunger to know more than we do, it's easy to take the path of least resistence.  In other words, to just do what we have to, and not truly explore what we want to or could.

For me, I didn't really get hungry or curious for education (and specifically reading and writing) until I was 27 years old.  That is very late in life in some ways, but for myself, I'm just grateful it happened at all.  I was in a horrible motorcycle accident at age 27, as I hit a deer out of a ditch in southeastern Minnesota at 70 mph, and I had no helmet on.  Very stupid.  By the grace of God, I survived.  Things changed for me after that, and it was a turning point for me.

I simply realized I was too self-satisfied.  I had to accept the fact that I had intelligence, but I was very limited in what I actually knew.  I was basically ignorant in many ways and when I took a close look at myself at 27, I realized this.  It was humbling, but I think maybe the most important realization of my life.

Seeking more than just a new career, I returned to the university looking for something else: an education.  I didn't party very much this time through, I had to develop discipline that I didn't have anymore.  I had to say no to a lot of friends and family members in order to get the most out of my new found curiosity.

All I can say to you is that for me, this was really life-changing.  I changed a lot of my behaviors and habits, and it felt great to be strong enough to do that.  Things were not perfect, but I felt like I was seeking my own path and not being pushed by somebody else.  I made many mistakes, but they were acceptable because I had a larger plan.  I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I held faith that if I kept an open mind and truly took advantage of what an education had to offer me, it would come to me in time.  And it did.  Not like magic or anything, as with most things in life, it took a lot of hard work!  But it was exciting because I realized this was my chance and I should take it.

I truly wish that for all of you.  I think a good teacher really should just want each individual student to realize his or her potential, and to encourage and help that person on his/her journey through school and life.  I often fail to do this as well as I could, but I do have it as my highest goal.

Okay, my little testimony is over now (smiley face goes here).

With this said, here what I would like to do next.  I have tried to encourage you to engage with these people in Holding On, and actively notice what is going on and what themes occur in the narratives, as they often have implications for us.  From the very first profile, we saw historical themes like the Great Depression, the era of the railroad monopolies, the Pullman Porters and rise of the first Black unions, the use of dialects and signs in hobo jungles, the frustrations of jobs that have a "glass ceiling", etc.  These are themes just in the first two profiles!

So here's what I want you to do now:  You have written or thought about a theme that's important to you in Holding On.  You may have even written about the profiles you think establish or exemplify these themes the best.

Now let's expand our curiosity and so for this assignment, please find, using research, a source that deepens our knowledge of this profile or theme.  In your post, tell us about the theme or profile you are curious to know more about.  Then briefly describe the source you found that offers more information related to this theme or profile, and overview what you learned.  Provide a LINK in your post for these sources.

My theme is curiosity itself, to bring us back to the start of this post, okay?  Here are two sources that I found that talk about how and why we might try to develop this habit.  As you know by now, I have my own reasons, but these offer even more, and some practical and encouraging advice.  I hope you enjoy these links, and yes, you should indeed read them.  They are meant to help.


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