“Dear Bryn Mawr College Dining Services,
You are all amazing people. To run this dining hall is like running the world. To deal with these dumb whiny bitches is too much! If they are trying to take the television out of the dining hall b/c they say that too many of the music videos objectify women, then they have meaningless and idiotic lives. You shouldn’t take the dumbass bullshit from these privileged students. If they feel as though they are being objectified, they should write to MTV who shows the videos and, most importantly, the artists who produce the music. To complain about music videos and a television?! Most of the women, girls really, who complain, don’t respect the spaces that they live in. They have no reason to complain about this place. Don’t take the TV away. Rather, tell the snooty dumbasses to SHUT THE FUCK UP! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT REAL OBJECTIFICATION IS!!!
Confused? I was too.
Actually, my range of emotions went from bewildered to outrage to confusion to (perhaps?) understanding and finally frustration. But in order to get to that, you should know my story.
A lot of people have mentioned that they found this week's paper easier to write, but I actually found the opposite. I really enjoyed conducting my interviews, but felt constrained by the fact that we could only make statements based on that information. In addition, I ended up disagreeing with what my data suggested because of personal opinion and an outlying story I heard from one of my interviewees. I guess what I really struggled with was figuring out how to show the data I'd found and then disagree with it by highlighting a specific story. I also felt like I was juggling a lot of different things we'd gone over in class – including bringing in stories from our visit to the high school and information from our Wendy Luttrell reading. I ended up with an essay where I feel I got to highlight my feelings on the subject of going to college (and the assumption that everyone should) and I appreciate that opportunity, but the writing process was definitely difficult for me.
Like a lot of the other commenters, I was really happy with the turn-out of the workshop, and so glad to get to hear the perspectives of upperclassmen on class and their experiences with it. I did wish I got more of a chance to speak with staff and faculty, though. I think the space questions (where we feel most productive, ownership, etc.) were really effective for mixing us up more, which was great. I know for a lot of people, the campus center was a really popular place for doing "productive work" and I found it curious that so many staff who I spoke to (deans and counselors in particular) chose that as compared to their office as a place of work doing, because for me it's always been quite social. I wasn't surprised that in general faculty felt most uncomfortable in the dorms, but I was surprised that so many people said they felt comfortable everywhere. I think perhaps people couldn't name a space in which they felt uncomfortable was because I feel that a lot of times, places in which i find myself uncomfortable aren't always that way. The spaces are liminal and their level of exclusivity changes for me based on who occupies them.
I chose the first floor hallway of Denbigh for my space. I spend a lot of time there, working and socializing, so it felt appropriate to consider. After picking it though, I realized that there was quite a dichotomous nature to the hallway, as it belonged to and was used by two different groups of people. During the day, members of the staff work in the hallway, cleaning the dorm itself. In the evenings, it's used by the residents as study and social space. I found the difference between the two uses and groups of people particularly interesting because the hallway is perhaps the one space the groups may intersect.
After looking over the essays I've written and notes I've taken for this class, I've noticed that my work has become progressively more analytical. At the beginning of term, my writing mostly relied on personal narrative to convey my points, but as I've read more and begun making increasingly broad connections to outside sources, I've relied less on myself and more on my research. I think I've become a better researcher, though I still have much to learn. I also think I've been better able to maintain a cohesive claim in my essays – though I'm also still working on that. I often come away from class discussions that I have a difficult time decide what it is exactly I want to write about. And once I've decided, I often have trouble staying on one train of thought as so many factors can be addressed and focused on with each topic. I do think it's becoming easier for me to stay focused, though, and I plan to continue working on that with the rest of my writing.
I can't wait to visit the high school later this month. I definitely think I've had a rather sheltered high school experience and I'm curious to see how the students' experience here compares. Though like the students we'll be visiting, admission to my (public) high school was through application, I believe the process is a little bit different, which I'm sure affects the way the students interact with one another and the backgrounds from which they come.
During our silent discussion on Thursday, one of the topics that interested me was burn out (of the teachers and students). I'd be interested in speaking to students about their experiences of this, particularly because I saw it happen often among students – and sometimes also teachers – at my own school.
I was also curious about the senior writing project that Sarah spoke about in class. Though we won't be working with seniors, I'd love to know how much of the school is built around this expectation and how much a part of school culture it is. At my high school, students taking senior english APs were expected to end the year with a writing portfolio called the "Senior Portrait" and I know for many of my friends and myself, the expectation of the project was nearly as consuming as the project itself.
I'm looking forward to learning about different high school experiences from the students, and can't wait to meet them.
I think education has the ability to level the playing field, but very often it doesn't do this. Many of the students at my high school, for example, came from low-income households and were on what's called "Free or Reduced Lunch." These very same students went to amazing colleges and (after attending an economically diverse school like ours) were armed with much of the "cultural capital" needed to find their niches in higher education settings. But we were also lucky in that the interactions among teachers and students in our school focused on an overwhelming desire to learn more and succeed. Our playing field was leveled for us when we came in – all of us scoring above a minimum level on an aptitude test in order to even be accepted to the school. In schools where this isn't the case (zoned local high schools in areas with poorly scoring elementary schools), it's far more difficult for students to even make it out of the system – let alone level with students from schools which are far more highly funded and are fed by high performing elementary schools. In these cases, many students are barely at acceptable reading and math levels – so it's impossible to expect teachers and students to work together to break even with other schools.
Until my conference, I had a lot of ideas about access to education, but not really one clear topic to focus on. It wasn't until I told Professor Cohen of an experience one of my friends had in relation to her access to education that I realized it was very relatable to the discussion we had in class on Thursday and the article we read by Earl Shorris.
In class, Professor Cohen asked us to agree or disagree – in movement – with the statement "The poor must be taught the humanities." (hope that's accurate, there are definitely nuances depending on wording, but I can't remember what the exact words were). I stood in the middle of the classroom but closer to the disagreement side because I decided that though it was certainly important for everyone to learn the humanities, if the poor weren't given the tools to continue that education or make use of it in a life they found fulfilling, there would be no point enforcing such teaching. In my essay I wrote about how one can have access to an academic education, but without practical knowledge or help with the logistics of the college application process (for example) one cannot continue his or her study. This isn't to say that the poor shouldn't have access to the humanities if they cannot afford to go further. I simply believe that in addition to access to the humanities, there should also be access to navigational tools of the sort that help you navigate College Board, write a resume, or even know how to confront someone if you feel a mistake has been made or you've been wronged.
Hope the handwriting's not too illegible!
I wasn't sure what the topic would be for my essay on my educational experience until we did a little bit of reflective writing in class on Thursday. I ended up focusing on the difference in education between myself and my cousins because I realized we really did have quite different experiences from one another (particularly because they live, literally, on the other side of the world!). It wasn't until I really began writing, though, that I understood (or at least, acknowledged) the extent of our differences. In the essay I focuses on their social education as compared to my more book-centric experience. I'm still unsure which of us found more use in what we learned.