The Learning Curve

24 02 2012

“The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein

One big down side to being a middle-aged co-ed: placement tests. Even worse, the classes you’ll end up having to take because you don’t remember what slope-intercept is or when to use the Pythagorean Theorem. I use these math examples, but anyone who hasn’t brushed up on writing skills, could find themselves taking more “entry level” writing classes, as well.

Math Misery

Let’s face it; those seniors in high school who take their SAT have an advantage: they’re studying that sort of math within days of taking the test. All those geometry formulas for finding the area (or volume) of all sorts of shapes pop up on a regular basis in their math classroom. The last time most of us used any such formula, it was the basic “length times width” to estimate how much paint we’d need for our bedroom walls.

Most stuff (or should I say meaningless fluff) they teach you in upper level algebra or geometry doesn’t get used on a regular basis in the average Jane’s daily life. I was happy I had managed to get that college algebra class out of the way when I went for a few terms back before I got married. The statistical math classes I was required to take more recently weren’t exactly grade school level, but since I could use Microsoft Excel to do most of the calculations, it was just a matter of using the right command. (I make it sound so easy, don’t I? Yeah, well, when my sons who took calculus in high school laughed at me because I didn’t know what an “e” stood for in some formula, I wasn’t feeling very impressed with me.)

Who is the Know-It-All?

Writing Woes

Since I’m an English major (with a creative writing minor), writing flows from my fingertips. I know this isn’t true for most middle-aged co-eds (or even my sons, the typical aged co-eds). Organizing facts and combining sentences is second nature for me. I was that kid in high school who loved essay questions, because even if I had no idea what the answer was, I could write around the question with enough pizzazz to net at least partial credit.  Sometimes, I believe the teachers just looked at the sheer quantity of words I’d written, and gave me full points (not bothering to even read the mini-novella).

Being able to write my way out of a paper bag is one thing, but who remembers how to make citations? What’s the difference between APA and MLA? (Really? Why do we have to have two different types? Couldn’t these scholarly types agree on one format?) What on earth is a peer reviewed journal and where do I find one? There’re in text citations and footnote citations and summations or direct quotations (good grief already!) in abundance.

I’m so thankful for the resources available on the Internet. If I had to do things with my old manual Smith Corona typewriter and liquid paper strips, it would be a nightmare of epic proportions. The beauty of “Son of a Citation Maker” can only be compared to s refreshing drop of water after a 10-mile bike ride (life-saving, in case you didn’t get the metaphor). I would personally like to kiss the person who invented “cut and paste” and “copy and paste” (and I hope he isn’t some old guy with warts or bad breath).

In simple things like this, the younger generation of college co-eds simply doesn’t understand the convenience of college life in this digital age. My nephew got an iPad when he enrolled in college because the instructors expected him to take notes on it and use it to submit his assignments to their inboxes. Textbooks are even available in digital formats that can be accessed online or downloaded to your Kindle application (or iBooks) and conveniently carried everywhere (no back strain required).

Wisdom instead of Wizardry

I’m happy to say, I’ve earned every gray hair I valiantly strive to cover with peroxide and dye. According to the Book of Proverbs, this is a sign of wisdom [well, it actually says “the beauty of old men is the gray head” (Proverbs 20:29b, KJV), but the implication is that old guys are wise].  On the other hand, the younger generation is blessed with electronic gadget wizardry. Which of these has more immediate value? Is a different winner predicted for the long haul?

Obviously, wisdom is the clear winner.  With some practice (screaming, hair pulling and violent tossing of electronic gadgetry), this middle-aged co-ed can learn to make those gadgets perform enough magic to keep her head above water.  But attainment of gray hair wisdom, takes years of patient practice, trial and error and working through frustrating situations.  Sorry, dudes, you can’t by that on E-Bay.

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