No Apologies

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today I experienced something that I have been dealing with all of my adult life. And Finally, I got sick of it.

What could it be that has finally broken my notoriously strong back?

Having my Education used as an insult.

I know I am not the only person to have felt this jab. It happens in every presidential election, after all. I have seen it in other realms of politics, and certainly all over the media.

Who does he think HE is? Being all Smart and stuff.

Followed by one of my favorite statements: "Am I supposed to be impressed by that?" married to "Book Smart doesn't equal Common sense." Finally, the inevitable follows: "Are you saying you are BETTER than me?"

Honestly? Yes.  Yes I am.

Indulge me, however, as I break this down.

Do I think I am a better human being?

No. Not at all. I have known amazing people who never attended high school. I have known incredible douches that have PhD's.

Do I attach value to a system of learning which is codified into degree granting institutions?

Yes. My family bought into the idea that Education can help you get ahead. My grandparents didn't attend college. My own Father never attended college, while my mother graduated in 1971 from a 3 year RN program. She always called it Nursing School -which is what it Was in 1971.

I was, to my knowledge, the first Rouse in my family to graduate from University with a Bachelors Degree.  My Brother followed suit with his degree, and my sister eventually followed with her degree(s). Later, my Mother went back to school to get her Four year BS in Nursing, and later a MS in Nursing.

I may be the first Rouse to get a Masters Degree, and I am nearly 100% certain that I will be the first to earn a doctorate.

My Fathers people, as I have written before, were farmers in Ohio. One step, and I say this with love, from hillbillies.

My Mom's family were slightly more middle class tradesmen, with my grandfather being a meat cutter, and my grandmother being a congressional secretary before she became a housewife and mother.

What does having advanced degrees say about you?

First and foremost it says that you have learned how to navigate a system of rules.  As you move up in academia, the rules become more rigid.  The rules about a PhD are FAR more rigid than the rules around an Associates Degree.

You have to complete coursework to the satisfaction of someone else. That means you have to  be able to read, evaluate and respond satisfactorily to another persons academic demands.

You must learn to argue your point...But not be one sided. You have to learn to Research - really research your topics. Wikipedia isn't enough.

You must be able to communicate in writing and through conversation your ideas and points, backed up with documentation and reference material. You must be able to CITE YOUR SOURCES, and give credit where it is owed.

Does this make you an expert?

 Yes...and No. It is true that I know a hell of a lot.  I am a rare academic mind which is fed not only be my own area of study, but also by other fields that I simply find interesting.  I have blended my ability to take in vast amounts of information through reading and then access that information in my professional life.

That means that when I was in direct care and education with children that I was constantly referencing my back catalog of child development theory, with physical and pediatric development knowledge, with social cognition information through my direct observation and note taking.  I also continued to read, and read, and read when things puzzled me...or new information came out.

So, Yes. I deserve somewhat the title of Expert.

However - and this is a huge caveat - I don't feel than Any person can rest on their past laurels. I don't deserve the title of Expert because of what I have  achieved in the past, but rather what I continue to Learn.

When I come across people who tell me that they don't bother to develop professionally (or personally) because they have seen or read it all, I know I have found  an educationally dead soul.

Am I supposed to be Impressed by Your Degrees or Awards?

Yes. A little bit. If only because of the knowledge of the Years of reading, and studying, and thinking and doing that I have invested in those degrees. Think of it like the Sistine Chapel. You might not be impressed by the final product ...but you have to hand it to Michelangelo for tackling the Task.

During my time as Director, one of the most persistent criticisms from particular staff regarded my use of "fancy terms like curriculum".  It was a puzzling criticism for me, but one which I know understand to be fueled by a deep seated fear of change and the knowledge that I viewed the profession of Early Childhood are more than "just liking kids" and demanded more.

And awards are nice, but only because they mean that your peers have said "She does Good Work. She knows what she is Doing."

Book Smart doesn't equal Common Sense!

No, it doesn't. But Common Sense didn't discover Antibiotics. Common Sense thought that mental illness was caused by demons possessing people.  Common Sense burned people as Witches. I sure as Hell don't want someone with only common sense operating on me or my family members.

It pisses me off when this statement is used as some kind of justification to degrade the educated.

I mean sure, perhaps if I had been born into the 18th century aristocracy and was unable to make my own meal, or dress myself this might have been a more pertinent insult.

I pump my own gas at the gas station. I grocery shop and stand in line at Walmart.

When I was Teacher and/or Director, I changed as many diapers and cleaned up as much vomit as any other staff member.  When I was given Assistants to work with I always told them that I would never ask them to do anything I wasn't willing to do myself.  In my field, it is hard to be credible when you haven't put in your time in the trenches.  Believe me, a room full of 18 Four year olds can rip your professional identity to pieces much faster than my PhD committee.  It is because I survived boys who would look at me and poop in their pants at age 4 rather than go into the bathroom, or babies who screamed at me for months without end that I have the confidence to go forward into the Expert Arena.

And psst, let me tell you one more thing about People with Advanced degrees.

We have been forced by training to see both sides of an issue. We have been forced to consider viewpoints that are not ours, or ones which may make us uncomfortable. We have had to take classes with people who don't look like us, or think like us.  We have had to justify our ideas with a multitude of thinkers, through layers of history. We have had to understand what came before, in order to move forward.

In my particular field I have had to think about parenting practices with which I don't agree. I have had to find common ground with those parents to still work in the best interest of the child,  while still finding a way to be supportive of the child within the family.

You think politics is tough? Try navigating the feeding schedule of an infant who you know, empirically, is not getting enough food with a mother who is concerned that her baby is "fat".  Or the 4 year old who still walks in with chocolate milk in a Bottle. Or a Toddler whose mother gives her over the counter medication every night to make her sleep through the night, because the mom is a single mom and can't deal with the baby waking her up.

End of War treaties would be easier to navigate, I assure you.

My professional and academic degrees have trained me to step back and try to see the issue from the other side. Not as an adversary, but as someone who is bound by her professions ethical code of conduct to see the child as a member of a family, a larger unit. This larger unit must be seen as having a multitude of needs, simultaneously. It is not my job to Tell the parent what to do and how to do it, my job is to get inside that larger family unit and figure out how to get the information I need to share placed strategically so that it is almost as if I wasn't there.

When the argument that I should be shamed for or ashamed of my education gets hurled at me, I always feel sorry for the other person.  Just a little bit.  I have to believe that they have internalized either a fear of education,  or some sense of educational inadequacy along the way that makes this a powerful response/insult for them.

So No. I will not feel Any shame for my degrees nor the hard work I have put into any of them. I don't feel shame for stretching my mind through books and experiences, including living outside the US. I don't feel shame for taking advantage of the struggle and sacrifice of my family to better my own education and professional status.

I guess Ignorance really is Bliss.

4 Baleful Regards:

SUEB0B said...

Another thing you have proven through your advanced education is executive function - you can delay pleasure-seeking while you attain a bigger goal. I have heard it said that most people have trouble keeping focused for longer than 3 months at a time, which is why college semesters are the length they are. Only higher-functioning people can persist for longer, say, for the 2 years it takes to get a masters or the interminable period of focus to get a doctorate. This is why we pay people who can run companies or who have advanced degrees more - because most people don't have these abilities.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

"Common Sense didn't discover Antibiotics." Yep.

Stop writing things that make me think. My brain hurts. I can't focus. :-)

roo said...

Man, this strikes a chord with me.

I just emerged from a bout of arguments with an online acquaintance who was threatened by the notion that being educated about art history and criticism might make a person's opinion on the subject more valuable to the population at large.

Not that an uninformed opinion about art is WRONG, mind you-- just that someone who spends much of their life looking at art, studying it, thinking about it, talking to artists about their work, maybe trying to improve their own artistic skills, has reason to expect that in the marketplace of ideas, their opinions about art might be given more weight than those of someone who hasn't put in that kind of work.

Apparently, this viewpoint makes me an elitist snob.

After all, the only reason someone might use a word that ends in "-ism" is to show that they're better than someone else, right?


Dawn said...

Absolutely Roo.

It is the strain of not anti-intellectualism, but anti-education that drives me bonkers.

When did we become a society that sneers at education? When did we become a society who actively seeks to downgrade the benefits of education?

I have my own political suspicions, of course. The too-successful War on Poverty of the Johnson era which led to more minority students entering higher ed. This led to the idea that an educated Black man could not possibly be worth more, economically, than an uneducated white man.

Of course, as long as our economic manufacturing base held this was all right. Tradesmen could earn on par with college graduates. As this economic base has disappeared, up has risen the "Learning Ain't Everything" mantra.

Both political parties in the States have benefited by this - just think of how Much time is spent ( by people with very privileged backgrounds including higher education) pointing out who seems more "likable" "A person you'd like to have a beer with" , or without the coded speech - someone without education or expertise.

One of the criticisms of President Obama is that he seems "professorial". Um, Yeah. Because he Was. And I am perfectly FINE with that. I want someone who can think things through THOROUGHLY. Someone who has expertise in Law and History. We saw what ye olde "Gut Feeling" got us, did we not? Two Wars. Bankrupt economy.

Art, like parenting and child development, has room for a lot of opinions. I can like something I see, but not know the history of how an art technique or style came to be vis a vis cultural, political and technological advances and changes. That is what YOU bring to the conversation by virtue of your background.

Instead of being riled up about that, I welcome it. You have knowledge that I do not. Share it with me.

Too often however we get that visceral gut reaction of "Are you saying your are BETTER than me?"

Well of course. Some people ARE better at some things. Not that multiple viewpoints are not valuable, but they all must be weighted accordingly.

I will, for instance, never understand chemistry. But that is all right because I know there are people out there who DO understand it. I don't need to run into their labs and kick over their tables screaming "You can't tell ME how to mix Medicine!"

By the by, I think that this underpins a great deal of the current fashionable attack on teachers via politics and homeschooling.

And I stand by the last thought in the post. I think people who throw this argument are deeply terrified of what they do not know and so fight like hell to defend their right to BE ignorant. Willfully.

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