Back To School

As the hundreds of yard signs have been reminding me, school’s back in session. And as many of the people who know me will tell you, I will always count myself as a student. The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. Fortunately, unlike in high school, I’m now at a point in my life where I can determine my own course of study, which makes learning a lot more fun, but, surprisingly, not the least bit less challenging.

When you pick the topics, it becomes much easier to get tunnel vision, only researching ideas that support your own predetermined conclusions. It becomes easy to set aside books and papers that challenge your opinions. And, with no one but yourself to evaluate your work, it can become sloppy and incomplete. There’s no test to determine if you read every last page of a book or took the time to fully comprehend a research paper.

So, in solidarity with those returning to the classroom, I thought I would at least share with you my syllabus for this year:

SOCIAL STUDIES: With a passion for historical study and an interest in economic theory, I’m planning to focus this school year on depression-era politics. On the recommendation of a friend, I’m starting my study with the book "The Great Depression: a diary" by Benjamin Roth, which I’m told is a very personal account of the effects of personal and political decisions on the life of a Northeast Ohio family.

LITERATURE: With my feet firmly planted in Christian conservatism, it probably won’t be any surprise that my choice of study here will be the book "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. The concept alone (fictitious correspondence between demons discussing how to get humans to sin) seems like a good read even outside of any greater philosophical discussion. 

MATH/SCIENCE: Here’s where the schedule starts getting interesting. Having read enough books on economics to fill a small library, I’ve recently been trying to get to the root of the issues. For years, I’ve read books and papers evaluating theories. But until recently, I hadn’t dedicated much time to actually reading the theories themselves. So to correct that shortcoming, my next selection will be "The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money" by John Maynard Keynes. Time to stop getting my information second-hand and go back to the original source.

GYM: Summer break hasn’t been kind to my waistline, and too much of the good work I did getting back into shape a year ago is starting to slip away. So I’m treating this as a non-elective. It’s definitely time to dust off the running shoes and get the bike back in working order. I’m just not sure if the wife will let me play dodgeball in the living room with my son.

SHOP & MECHANICAL ARTS: Unfortunately, this class takes on a whole new meaning when you get out of school. No more making birdhouses here, and the penalties for not turning your work in on time can be much more drastic. This year’s agenda: fixing the roof, window repair, and enough painting and plaster work to fill in any credits I still need for art class.

HOME ECONOMICS: Yet another class that becomes a non-elective once you’re out of school. Yet one that not many people value highly in the area of continuing education. This semester I’m planning to continue research into the core question behind my own personal Doctoral Thesis: Can a man bake his way out of the marital doghouse? (Tentative title: A Good Cheesecake Trumps a Good Husband)

INDEPENDENT STUDY: I used to love how the teachers would always walk into study hall and tell you that you should "use this time to your advantage," as if that is going to inspire you to pull out all the homework you’ve been putting off for days. Well, with all that’s on my plate, both inside and outside the realm of continuing education, I can honestly say, the best way to use any free time "to my advantage" is probably just to put my head down and take a nice nap.

I’m hoping that by making this public, my friends (and even my adversaries) can keep me honest and on track in the area of personal growth. So good luck this year students...of all ages.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 6, Issue 18, Posted 2:15 AM, 09.08.2010