Back to school (one writer's education and a few good resources for lifelong learning)


My kids both started the new semester today. Of course, now that they're in college the first day of school thrill isn't quite what it used to be. Not sure they'd appreciate me showing up to videotape them marching in the front door. They're not here to pose for pictures with their shiny new lunch boxes. I did get a couple of text messages. ((sigh))

What is thrilling to me is that they're now beyond my highest level of education. I screwed up my opportunity to finish my degree when I was their age. I planned to go back to college the year my daughter started kindergarten but ended up going to chemo instead. A very different sort of education ensued. I don't recommend it, but I'd have to say it's served me well. Blasphemous as this may be, in my heart of hearts, I think a creative writing degree is the worst thing a person can do to prepare for a career as a writer. The best education for writers (in my humble opinion): a degree in anything else -- seriously, botany, poli sci, arc welding, anything -- plus the living of life and the reading of books.

One of my favorite things about my job is the built in continuing education. Every book, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, takes me on an amazing research journey. In the last 18 months, I've spent hundreds of hours exploring ancient Egyptian medical scrolls, Victorian surgeons, 1970s politics, 1950s television, capital punishment, the Texas prison system, primate behavior, spinal cord injuries, opera, theatre, pulp fiction, equestrian methods and facilities, Afghani agriculture, Hungarian art, the 1952 polio epidemic, Girl Scouting...and I went on a little side trip to Thornton Wilder just for the heck of it.

Learning is a limitless and decadent pleasure. It keeps us young (school-age!) and engaged with the world. Below are a few of the fascinating sites I've stumbled upon and gotten completely drawn into.

Read classics online at Project Gutenberg

Carnivorous plants at Black Jungle

50 famous trials from Socrates to OJ

Pulp fiction book cover post cards

The Edwin Smith Papyrus

Sister Kenny

Texas Death Row

Berlin history for travelers

Connected to the backbone

Belief-o-Matic

Comments

My college kiddo started classes today as well...with a professor who didn't show for the first session. (*Sigh*) As vital as a degree is in today's economy, I have to say I've learned far more on my own beyond the ivory tower, since I'm uniquely motivated when following my interests.
Becky Smith said…
I am also a woman without an official college degree. But I agree with you that ongoing, life long learning can't be beat.

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I learned more about stress and humanity and pain and fear and laughter and death and courage than twenty years of philosphy courses could ever have provided.

And my word-loving daughter and I are very much in agreement with you that reading tons and tons of greats books is the best writer's training that exists.

Bottom line for us all? Never stop learning. And the list of all the things you've studied over the past year is an amazing example of that principal.

Love your blog!
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for that, Becky. Great to hear from you. And please send my best with peace and grooviness to your daughter.