Graduate School really is not about learning – Semester in review – Spring 2010

Anyone who writes articles or blog post and expects people to read them will tell you that a catchy, witty, vulgar or otherwise outrageous title is the best way to gain instant readership. The next step is to use the first sentence or two to hook them, either explaining your title, presenting interesting information or blowing them away with your writing; for me that will all begin in the third sentence. School is about education, education is about learning, and as the highest schooling (currently) available, graduate school must also be about the highest level of learning available. Professors will impart knowledge, which will be devoured eagerly by the students with the ambition of having the opportunity to do the same someday soon. What I just painted was a caricature, based off of accurate sentiments, but not at all true.

Perhaps I am being cynical in saying all of this, since graduate school quite clearly is about learning, but I have learned next to nothing in classes. I have gotten better at Greek and Latin, but mostly through doing my homework and working on the side. I have learned some about Greek history and debates surrounding Alexander, but almost entirely on my own. I have learned a little about writing, but mostly by having someone critique my writing. Graduate school is about learning, but in the sense that graduate students are expected to learn on their own and experience their particular field and thereby learn, not necessarily go to classes and thereby learn. Sometimes I suspect that this changes the more people there are working in a particular field.

This has been one of my revelations this semester and while I am not entirely comfortable with it, I am becoming reconciled. A related issue is that even though almost all of he historical (rather than experiential) learning is independent, there is a requisite amount of coursework that must be done. I have not really enjoyed any classes in over four semesters. I have enjoyed, and do enjoy, aspects of school and thinking about history, but I am beginning to understand why people say that graduate school sucks all the joy out of history, but the signs were already there by the senior year of college. My hope is that there will be some change in all of this next year since I am looking forward to a bunch of my classes, plus there will be a new Ancient History student. I truly do love history, and like talking about history, thinking and writing about history, but it has given me some thought.

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