A degree can be the means to many ends, even more beginnings.

Philosophy and Nonsense      
(Thoughts about writing, education, and experience.)                                    Presented by Forrest D. Poston

The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
Think, I dare you.

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You are not your degree, and you are not  your job.

Thoughts About Picking a Major       by Forrest D. Poston

A major and a career are not synonymous.  Very few, if any, majors lead to only one possible career.  The major is simply a foundation, and many possible careers can be built upon a given foundation.  Besides, it's quite likely that you'll go through more than one career choice as you develop.

A job and a career are not synonymous.  A job is something you do to survive and pay the bills.  A career should come out of and build back into who you are.  I've had many jobs but only one career.  One of the main reasons for going to college is so you can get past the survival stage and develop a career.  Be thankful that you live in a time when you have so many choices, even if those choices may be driving you nuts.  If born one generation later, my father may have been an engineer or an artist, rather than a coal miner, driver, popular story-telling plumber.  Then again, under those circumstances I might not have been born.

Consider what you fear.  Quite often when students come by in their junior or senior year to tell me they found the right major, they also say that it's what they always wanted to do, but they were afraid that they weren't good enough.  Once they took it on, their performances actually improved.  Still, maybe they had to wait that long to be ready, but consider facing the fear and taking the plunge.

Consider what you love.  Students have also told me that they love a particular field too much to risk it because they're afraid that the classroom will destroy the love.  I see it most often with literature, music, or art, but it could be any field.  Yes, our current system is based more on pain and boredom than it is on love, but if you walk away from the love, you'll lose it for certain.  There are ways to get through the over objectification with patience.

In a variation on the fear and love, I had one student with a passion for journalism, but he refused to major in that field.  He said that he'd rather succeed in something he didn't care about, rather than risk failing at what he loved so much.  Remember that failure is one of the normal stages, particularly when trying something new, but if we let that get in the way, we'd never even learn to walk.

The classroom and workplace are not synonymous.  What goes on in the classroom and how those ideas are applied in the workplace will be quite different, so don't draw direct connections from experiences in either place. 

The class, the teacher, and the material are all quite different things.  If you like or dislike a class, ask yourself whether it's the teacher or the material.  Don't major in a field just because you had one great teacher, and don't miss out on your love just because some boring nit expressed the ideas so badly.

Find the ideas.  What are the questions about yourself and the world that intrigue you?  Actually, the questions are the same in every field, but they get approached and applied differently.  Ask yourself what the questions are, how they are asked and applied, within each field.  Psychology and sociology are so close that they often irritate each other, but the differences in the approaches can be just significant enough to tip the scale.

What's my approach?  You may find that the field you want lacks any clear role models for you.  I knew in 6th grade that I wanted to be, had to be, a teacher, but within a few years I also realized that I didn't want to do what I saw teachers doing.  It took about 10 years to sort out my own what, how, and why enough to start teaching, and I'm still refining my answers.

You don't have to get it exactly right on one try.  Don't worry if you pick a major, then change, change, and change again.  Many students reach the "major of the week" stage.  Of course, some schools now charge to do the actual paperwork change, but you don't have to do the paperwork everytime you change your mind.  I started college as a math major because of one science fiction short story I read while goofing off in my high school journalism class, but I came out as an English major.  Turns out that everything is connected more than we often pretend anyway.  Your major will help you get started in a career, but experience (both in the career and other aspects of your life) will help you develop, leading you to make changes within your career and even jumping to a new career. Don't try to guess who you'll be when you hit 30 or 40, but as you reach new stages don't hold yourself to being who you were at 25.

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Writing and Education

Autobiography Challenge

Considering Conclusions

Considering Introductions

Four Meanings of Life

Godot and the Great Pumpkin

A Major is More Minor Than
You Think

The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)

Thoughts About Picking a Major

Quick Points About Education

Quick Points About Writing

Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching

Revising Revision

Reviving Experience

Reviving Symbolism

Using an Audience


What Makes a Story True?

What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)

Why Write?

Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)

Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma

Links to Other Sites

Other Essays and Poetry

Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume

Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp
Being Like Children

Beyond the Genes (Dad)

The Blessing and the Blues

Bookin' Down Brown Street

The Cat With a Bucket List

David and the Revelation

The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)

Getting a Clue

Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone

The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices

I Believe in Capra

The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake

Roto, Rooter and the Drainy Day

Sadie on the Bridge

Trumpet Player, USDA Approved



Selected Poems

The Poetry Process

Links to Other Sites