Monday, May 16, 2011

What Did I Learn?

I "graduated" yesterday, with a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Wisconsin.  I say "graduated" because I actually still have to take (and pass) a summer class.  But that won't be a problem. 

So, the question is, what did I learn? 

Well, lots of things.  So I'm going to take a little time and go into some detail.  Literally class by class, over the next couple weeks.

To start, we go back to the fall semester of 2006.  My friend JD, works on campus, had put the idea in my head of taking a class or two for something to do.  I was always looking for new, interesting "diversions" so I thought, why not?

I went in, found the right person to talk to and got admitted as a "visiting student."  One class, take my pick.  I was a full time bartender then and Mr. C., a high school math teacher and frequent visitor suggested political science was my logical starting point.  So I looked there first and found ...

Political Science 104: Introduction to American Government and Politics.  Perfect!  So, what did I learn from that class?

First and foremost I learned that I liked being back in school, more than I ever had when I was younger.  Second, I learned that I could handle college level course work, but that it would require my best effort.

From the class itself I learned how our government works, in theory anyway.  We spent the first three weeks on the Constitution, including reading the whole thing, start to finish (a first for me).  Then we moved on to the different branches of government, how they work, where their powers overlap and where they serve as checks on each other.  Then elections.  Then parties.  Finally, the role of the press.

But the biggest thing I learned, long overdue, was (starting the process, anyway) how to read critically.  Who wrote the piece?  What is his bias?  What does somebody else say?  Which one do I believe?  And why?  Because he fed my bias or because he was more "credible," somehow?  Or did he just present his case better, and what are the implications of that?  Is there any "truth" or does it just come down to who is more persuasive?

More to come. 


  1. Attaboy.
    Now don't start acting like you know what you are talking about..



  2. Probably too late for that, Sarge. ; )

    Seriously, though, the more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know. It's both humbling and enlightening.

  3. notacynic:

    Congratulations! I hope you didn't end up owing tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

  4. So? What are you going to do with the degree? What is next?


  5. NAC,
    This is great news. I am very glad about this outcome. If you intend to go further Law is one of the big reciepients of poli-sci grads, as is many justice oriented trades, administrative positions in or out of gov.

    I took foreign relations (a poli-sci class) two semesters back and philosophy this semester, both as audits, Kansas allows seniors to audit (some classes) for only a few dollars, sign up is after classes begin and only if the class is not full or near full. I was by far the oldest in both classes. I find it interesting the difference in students now and 40 years ago. Many do not take notes at all, but play with their cell phones and eat chips. Professors post study points on line. Though the tests were quite challenging, I felt the old days were more of a mystery, I didn't know what would be on the test, so I really needed to understand the book and review the notes carefully and know the subject inside and out, this method although not a teach the test situation, focused openly more on certain items to the exclusion of others. Not sure but I think the overall understanding of the subject is less with this method. But I was impressed with some of the students, some are really sharp and get all the nuances, write and speak well, it's really fantastic to see people grow like that.

    Again, congratulations.

  6. Sarge,

    The future is still unknown. First, I have to complete a summer class, starts June 13th. To complicate things I have received an invitation into the next round of tryouts for the TV quiz show "Jeopardy!" That's on June 14th, at 9 a.m., in Kansas City.

    Once the summer class is completed I begin looking in earnest for full-time employment. Not sure as what, just yet. I am considering substance abuse counseling, probably means more school, and I would love to do something related to public policy, though jobs in that area are hard to come by. But I'll think of something. ; )

  7. YF, I thought at one time that I would like to go to Law School if I could somehow arrange it financially. Now, not so much.

    I too have been both impressed by my younger peers and almost aghast at the habits of some of them. Spend a whole lecture on facebook, come in late or not at all, sit like a clam in discussion sections, how do these kids expect to learn anything? I guess every class has some attrition and these kids are those.

    My first full-time semester I took an extra-curricular speed-reading course. I don't think speed-reading is something I can do with dense material but I did come out of it with much improved note-taking skills. Helped me a lot.

    I noticed a kind of a mixture of what you describe regarding how challenging the courses were, "teaching to the test." Some were like that, others more like what you remember from before, very challenging.

    All in all, quite an experience.

  8. Congrats on the 'graduation', I often wonder if I should have gone to college after high school instead of going right into working. I guess there is always time to go back.

  9. Congrats. Always good to be ejewkated.