Category Archives: College – Getting In & Going To

Knowledge Communities in Conflict: The Scope of Authority (3 of 3)

  • Communities by birth and communities by choice can make conflicting knowledge claims. How are these to be decided?
  • Those decisions will differ in how they are made, depending on whether the authority of power or the authority of knowledge makes the decision.
  • And even when they are made by the authority of power, they will work out differently when the community by choice is both method-based and rule-based (like the scientific community and the mathematical community) or not (like such social sciences as political science, economics, sociology, as well as communities formed around historical, ethical, and religious judgments).

The Scope of Authority Created by Rule-based Disciplines

  • Method-based disciplines involve clearly formulated rules that must be followed. Deviation from these rules is evident and quickly censured.
  • This gives the hard sciences an unbeatable advantage over popular opinion and cultural traditions, which are simply popular opinion –- shaped, sometimes ferociously, by those with power — that has consolidated and congealed over time.  In some ways, and in some places, there is structure and deep wisdom built into these top-down traditions (and it is to these that political conservatism, in the Burkean tradition, looks).
    • Anglo-American culture has traditions of rule of law, constitutionality, liberty, and rights, which, though incomplete and imperfect in both their extent and their distribution, are of broad general worth.) But not always, and not reliably.
    • These European-based Enlightenment values, as well as the core values of the Abrahamic faiths, and of the great Eastern religions, the incrementally progressive character of classic liberalism, all perpetuate crucial values.
    • The official Chinese line is that these are cultural quirks of a late-blooming, upstart, Western culture; in their view, our forebears were still swinging from the trees, when theirs were laying the foundations of the world’s oldest, still extant, most sustainable culture.
  • But traditions expounded for political purposes always serve the interests of those expounding them, or of the group they belong to, represent, or rely upon as their power base.
  • And popular opinion is seldom more than the expression of what seems convenient, comfortable, or useful to those who drive public opinion, both as leaders and as followers. Further, social networks are vehicles of the bias of the social circle within which they circulate.
  • Anyone who believes politicians or popular opinion — without checking their opinions against the views of credible experts — about matters of knowledge guided by method-based and rule-based disciplines (i.e., science and math) is a self-indulgent fool.
  • A fool, in this sense, is someone who relies for knowledge on those without the appropriate training and expertise in technical matters of knowledge in rule-based disciplines.
  • Interested parties without training, with anecdotal or no evidence, and without authority within the expert discipline, speak without knowledge. Their opinions reflect their interests or passions, or the hoped-for paths to fame, wealth, and power of the opinion-makers. The opinions of anti-vaccine groups, creationists, climate change deniers, flat-earthers fit here.
  • Fools are always played, and they are played for the advantage of those who are playing them.

The Scope of Authority Created by Judgment-based Disciplines

  • One can challenge the known truths of judgment-based disciplines more easily than those of rule-based ones.
  • History’s latticework of facts acts as a restraint upon interpretation, but interpretation is always required to some degree.
  • Conspiracy theorists, and those who deny evils performed by their nation, or ethnic group, belong here — deniers of the Holocaust, of the Armenian genocide, the massacre at Nanking, the many crimes of Stalin and Mao, colonial atrocities, and suppression and oppression of minorities. But because their claims involve judgment-based disciplines, like history, they have more wiggle room, which they exploit to the full. But where history leaves a trail of evidence, these fabricists are like those who deny empirically established scientific hypotheses.
  • Every fool thinks himself fit to be a king. Every Monday night quarterback thinks himself a tactical genius. These armchair observers and captains of the Net hiding behind catchy handles never have to test their tactics against reality, never have the chance to learn from their mistakes (while learning that they are mistakes).
  • Democracy, rule by amateurs, is the best form of government, not because voters are wise, but because they know their own interests, when the real consequences are clear to them — which is usually after the fact. Democracies blunder into crises underprepared because they lack foresight. But affluent democracies have the resources to right themselves, once they’ve discovered their error.
  • Regents, those who rule over those too immature to rule themselves, resist yielding power over their wards, even as their wards grow to maturity and are ready to take up their rightful power. Amateurs make rookie mistakes, but will not knowingly persist in them.
  • Democratic republics (the only stable form of democracy) depend upon a balance between the reliable self-interest of the typical voter and the expertise of those with the relevant experience, training, and accomplishments. When these governments go off-course, they are then guided by either the interests of the elite of experts or by the expertise of the mass of amateurs.

Reasonable Differences about the Practical Policies of Politics and Economics Will Always Remain

  • We will never escape history; the incompleteness of human character guarantees that. There will always be some new thing to interpret differently from our varying perspectives. There will always be political controversies and parties to argue and negotiate over them.
  • Thankfully, they need not always be as partisan– and so little negotiated in good faith — as they are now
  • That is a passing distemper, I believe, of the rich world, as it passes from the age of mass production and the manufacturing economy (with plentiful jobs for the relatively inexpert) to the digital age and the knowledge economy, where expertise and training are required for the best jobs, and for more and more of jobs, period. The less skilled jobs, the demand for which (and consequently the value of which), are in permanent decline, are found most heavily in the rural economy, blue-collar labor, and the automatable part of lower- and middle-level white-collar work, where Trump finds his votes (in my view, by playing to their grievances, without offering real solutions).
  • Societies like ours that grow and progress require constant adaptation.
  • That means openness to change, differences, and diversity. and that means learning general, adaptable, and transferable skills, rather than a set of protocols and standardized procedures, however slowly acquired. Anything that can be reduced to rules or protocols or standardized procedures can be programmed into a machine. And if it can be, it ultimately will be. There is no escape from either the competition between different social groups and nations or from history, in which those competitions play out.

Knower Communities by Birth and by Choice (1 of 3)

  • Human beings cannot exist as human beings outside of knower communities.
  • We begin as helpless infants, our capacities undeveloped, born into a family that will sustain us, or we die.
  • But, if born into a family that insufficiently sustains us, barriers (ceilings, even) retard or stop our growth.
  • Scarier still, such knower communities are legion, and often in conflict with one another about territory, preeminence, or the rightness of their beliefs.
  • Yet there is no greater benefit than being raised within a sustaining and supportive family, within a culture offering both depth of civilization and the liberty to pursue its cultural riches as we see fit.
  • In modern cultures this always includes a range of elective knower communities, which we choose to enter, or not, based on what vocation or avocation we wish to pursue and on the resources available to support this attempt to distinguish ourselves from the minimal baseline competence provided by a K-12 education.
  • In other words, we go to college to attain specialized forms of expertise. These will set us apart, somewhat, from others, in both thought and action.
  • This need not create battling mindsets and polarization, though it can do that. It need only mean that your dentist frowns more upon sugary delights than the average joe.
  • On the brink of college, those aiming in this direction are between two worlds. For many, aiming only for narrow technical qualifications, college can be largely a matter of adding technical expertise to the baseline knowledge and beliefs of the birth community. This tends to be the case at commuter colleges, community colleges, regional schools outside the elite rankings, and probably most online colleges as well. Essentially, any college or university emphasizing applied skills and technologies will tend to rub along with the dominant local birth community, for reasons from marketing to economics to politics to cultural assimilation.
  • But within those knower communities dedicated to the pure development of the underlying knowledge of the discipline, and to elite colleges and universities in general, the knower community proceeds on the course dictated by the discipline’s internal development, without regard to the beliefs of local, or otherwise dominant, knower communities.
  • These elite centers of knowledge set the standards for the larger body of tertiary schools.
  • For example, the scientific community is more sensitive to the vast amount of accumulating evidence supporting the theory of evolution or of climate change than to the beliefs and subsequent demands of various birth communities. [RSRCH Pew Center studies on evolution and climate change, higher the more involved in peer-reviewed publishing].
  • This creates conflict and mutual suspicion between professional, method-driven knowledge communities and birth communities (the more so, the more inflexible the latter are about their beliefs and about the authority for determining those beliefs).
  • High school, for the college-bound, is something of a halfway-house. Not yet exposed to the full rigor of the dedicated knower communities (bound by the requirements of peer-reviewed publication), high school mostly transmits the basic consensus facts and well-proven theories of the discipline, while habituating students to formatting and procedural standards. This inevitably lends a formulaic air to high school teaching, the more so as it is assessed “objectively” by tests and tasks attuned to these things.
    • Of course, many individual teachers circumvent these limits by “teaching under the radar”, so it is possible to have a taste of the real thing in high school. But this is always done against unreceptive resource allocations, incentives, and the competitive market/managerial/social selection at work in any market, organization, or society.
  • Back to elite schools and their standards. The mechanism for setting standards is peer-reviewed publication, along with promotions, awards, and the value of practical applications to society at large. STEM studies are largely non-controversial, because applied STEM expertise brings technological and economic power, and every birth community knows the values of those.
    • The irony of Al Qaeda and its ilk, extreme fringe, openly backward-looking communities of belief, is that they can only get noticed by adroit manipulation of modern technologies they could not themselves produce (mobiles, explosive concentrates, the Net). They are profoundly parasitic backlashes against forces they cannot help but maintain; like other parasites, their viability depends upon weakening without destroying their hosts.
  • As you know, these knowledge centers are clustered in large, urban, coastal cities. They give rise to industries that draw on their expert knowledge, and generate a class of educated workers, managers, entrepreneurs, and so on, that hold views more shaped by their knowledge communities of choice and less shaped by their birth communities. This is certainly a major factor in the current worldwide political polarization.
  • It also explains the open hostility of less developed rural and “flyover”regions to the expertise found in credible news media, the scientific community (wherever it impinges on birth community beliefs rather than offering technologically-based power or convenience), and emerging elites of all kinds.
  • This is not to say that Academics and the well-educated are without biases and interests shaping their own beliefs. There are no such unbiased creatures, or so few as to be negligible.
  • Anyone teaching the International Baccalaureate program in high school must be aware of the tensions between birth and academic knowledge communities, and tread lightly, carefully, and compassionately, maintaining an open mind towards the sometimes delicate situations of their students, while heedful of the academic standards of their discipline. This is especially so in non-STEM areas and those touching upon the cherished beliefs of various birth communities.
  • In a future post, I plan to discuss the differences between method-based disciplines and judgment-based disciplines as well as the scope of authority created by method-based disciplines.

Teaching: The Watershed Model v. the Throughput Model

Aw, shucks…
  • Real teaching is like shucking oysters. It’s about opening up closed minds. It’s about opening up minds to their own unused powers.
  • It’s a kind of intellectual arson. You light a match to some kindling and then step back and watch the blaze!
  • It is not about transferring pre-fashioned factoids, or pre-formulated opinions, or pre-authorized exercises demonstrating pre-designed insights.
  • That’s the bureaucratic, standardized and measurable model of education — the Throughput Model.
  • The Throughput Model envisages education as cranking open empty craniums and delivering measured doses of authoritative information.
  • This is what’s dictated and measured out in Pacing Guides.
  • And that’s exactly how you would design a system if it were intended to teach to a standardized test rather than to develop the nascent skills of critical thinking.
  • The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but always in a bureaucracy, educational or otherwise, what is measured and rewarded with extrinsic rewards — student grades, school grades, educator retention and promotion — gets first class attention, drawing resources and attention away from everything else.
  • That’s why some 5 to 10 years ago County school principals overwhelmingly approved of effectively ending mid-terms and finals. The Catch-22 provision was that such tests could be given, but could not be weighted more than 5-10%, equivalent to a unit test, safe in the knowledge that no one in their right mind would invest time in a cumulative review for such scant reward.
  • That’s also why school libraries have been converted into testing centers (i.e., test point harvesting centers) in all County high schools, for this is a necessary consequence of the incentive system that principals must respond to if they are to keep their standing.
  • Incidentally, that’s where the public printing facilities are located for students too poor to have home printers or too time-stressed to always print their work at home the night before. These are frequently closed to students, whenever active testing is going on, which seems to be about half the time. (One knows this by the growing prevalence of silent bells, the protocol when large-scale standardized testing is underway).
  • That information provided in the classroom is authoritative is implicit in its unilateral sourcing: the textbook, the teacher (all desks arranged to point to that single focal point of knowledge), the mainstream orthodoxy.
  • That it’s authoritative is implicit in the single textbook approved by the elected (and therefore, political, local Board of Education), which is why Kansas, I think, was for a time able to provide science textbooks presenting Creationism as a scientific theory (it’s a theory, alright, just not a scientific one).
  • In the IB program, students are required to write the Extended Essay, basically, the dry-run for a college research paper. But however many times you tell them not to, a large percentage of students, on their initial draft, write an essentially single-source authoritative account of something that is not disputed (and is thus not a viable Research Question). This reflects the kind of single source authoritative research and book reports they’re used to doing.
  • While more elementary levels of education can’t be expected to match later levels, they ought not to deform students’ skill sets or entrench bad habits in them.
  • Another example of ingrained bad habits is when students routinely defend wrong answers on carefully written tests by pointing to a phrase associated with their incorrect answer in complete disregard of the syntax of the surrounding statement. My conclusion: after years of hunt-and-peck scanning to pull isolated terms out of textbooks to answer unit review tests, these students are habituated to the lowest-level sub-analytical scanning of text for authoritative answers that they do not understand in context.
  • Such context-lite factoid answers are the bread-and-butter of busy work, that proxy for study and learning ingrained in habits that give rise to learning-to-the test, the flip side of teaching-to-the-test.
  • Most K-12 students, even the high-achieving ones, expect tests with word banks, and a one-to-one correspondence between the total number of words in the word bank and correct answers. In other words, high-performing students rely too much on gaming the test rather than really learning and understanding the material.
  • This partly explains the often heard teacher complaint that their incoming students seem not to really know the prerequisite materials their academic records suggest they do, because students game the tests to maximize their grades, not their learning. Busy work rewards short-term memorization, no the path to acquiring deep conceptual understanding required for mastery. You have here a system that is gamed from every side (by students, by teachers, by administrators, and by parents, when they see the opportunity). Bureaucratic systems incentivize the behavior of “stakeholders” by offering extrinsic rewards to encourage the behavior being incentivized; but this inevitably leads to the substitution of the extrinsic goals (accumulating GPA points) for the intrinsic goals (mastering the material).
  • More often than not, this combination of single source authoritative teaching and standardized tests sets ceilings on what teachers and administrators think students are capable of doing. Every self-motivated student knows how false and patronizing that is.
  • My entire teaching method (and I am not alone) consists of shattering that particular glass ceiling.
  • One small indicator: a teacher who cannot occasionally admit to not knowing something or to having overstated something or having made a factually incorrect statement is teaching authoritative doctrine, not critical thinking skills. In my view, such a person is not a genuine teacher but a trainer — someone paid to impart an orthodoxy rather than a set of critical skills.
  • My model of education is the Watershed Model. It presumes that students have untapped powers of thinking, and especially of critical thinking, which it is my job to ignite and unleash. I call it the Watershed Model because it aims at a change of heart in the student, somewhat like Saul’s being knocked from his donkey and arising as Paul.
Caravaggio’s The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
  • It’s not the religious connotation I’m after with this image, although there are similarities because both models are about a commitment to a new way of seeing the world, shedding the scales that blinded one before.
  • But the conversion I’m attempting is not one of doctrine or dogma, but one of the active use of one’s own mind and it’s capacity for critically evaluating all information and all opinions one comes across.
  • Teachers who follow the Watershed Model are not looking to create opinion clones of themselves but rather free and independent minds capable of charting their own course through the many mysteries and pathways, blind alleys and temptations of life — intellectual, practical, and moral.
  • Such students one hopes to be the trailblazers, the pioneers, the entrepreneurs, the luminaries and prize winners, the anchors of balanced lives and stable families, the educated and deliberating voters of our future — but, alas, only of our distant future.

Mirror Images: Teaching to the Test & Learning to the Test

  • It’s the high school way of doing things.  Standardization, box-checking, rubrics.
  • Teach to the test.  And, how could it not also be: learn to the test?


  • Night-before cramming, word banks coded into acronyms, memorizing a stock phrase for each term to be used on the test once and once only.
  • HSIALOALN: High School Is A Lot Of Acronym-Loving Nitwits.
  • Read the text (if at all) only after the teacher has shown in class what they will emphasize on the test.
  • Study the test by answering the textbook’s numbered questions at the end of each unit.  Scan the text until you find the keyword.  Copy down the relevant sentence, mildly rearranged, perhaps even remembered for later use on the test.
  • That’s the way the game is played — in high school.  That ends abruptly with college.
  • Teachers: Did we really think we would be teaching to the test and the team on the other side of the scrimmage line wouldn’t notice?
  • “It was a dirty game” both sides say.  “Who started it?”  “The other team!” both sides say.
  • Teachers: think of that flurry of activity when the new standardized guidelines are released.
  • “What do our masters up the food chain really mean?”  What do they really want?”  We have training sessions, workshops, and round-tables in how to grade by the rubric.  Prudent teachers often sign up to become AP or IB graders for a little bit of money and a whole lot of insight into what “they” really want.
  • If you can’t beat’em join’em.  It’s a strategy that’s worked for as long as we’ve thought strategically.
  • Every such system maintains itself by an incentive system of sticks and carrots.  “Do things our way or feel our pain directly through your personal interests, as they are fed those tasty carrots or struck with those stinging sticks!
  • Thus the exalted pedagogical art of divining what the higher ups really want, lurking behind the bright and shiny words of their mission statements.  “Look to the rubrics, young men and women!”  “Look to the insider insights into what they really want!”  During the Cold War, this sort of thing used to be called Kremlinology, divining the will of the always threatening powers that be.
  • Teachers: did you really think this covert reshaping of our pedagogic goals would go unnoticed?
  • Did you really think it would have no effect on the character and quality of the education we provide?
  • I offer no easy answers because there are none.
  • How does one keep one’s head above these inky waters?
  •  Ask a low-level bureaucrat in an imperial system of governance.  Ask a foot-soldier in the vanguard of an invading horde.
  • …or, try working “under the radar”.
  • Next: So, What’s a Poor Teacher To Do?  Teaching Under the Radar.

Under the Radar: a Short-Form Teachers’ Manifesto


  • In Answer to the Question “So, What’s a Poor Teacher To Do?” posed in the post “Mirror Image: Teaching to the Test & Learning to the Test” (with temporary link in the blog header above (background black), I say “teach under the radar”.
  • Try to do some good “under the radar”.  Spare an innocent, when you can.  Be flexible when it’s warranted.  We all have our own little tricks.  Call it enrichment; call it stubbornly individualistic ways of sneaking captivating content into the standardized units of knowledge hurried along on the great conveyor-belts of pacing guides, all driven by what I call the throughput model: view the student as an empty vessel to be stuffed at a predetermined pace with units of approved knowledge.
  • I think that’s the wrong model, for a variety of reasons.  Just one: it’s the model used by the McDonald’s corporation — provide a thoroughly mediocre, yet predictable, minimally nutritious and maximally health-code compliant product, recognizable anywhere in the world as tolerable, predictable, and safe, while neither a gourmet treat nor the most healthful and nutritious option.


  • I follow the watershed model: view the student as the possessor of untapped resources.  My job is to prospect for and ignite those powers, to challenge the student to look within themselves to their own resources, to recognize which among them need to be developed because they are strengths (often untapped) and which need to be developed because their insufficiency creates vulnerabilities.
  • Following this model, one doesn’t worry too much about the factoids (the things measured, by and large, in those standardized tests).  You watch for the watershed moments, you provide opportunities, occasions, and challenges to trigger them  Then, when they occur on their own schedule, not yours, you throw everything you have into fueling that flame.
  • Incidentally, this is the same technique for observing those surviving remnants of nature which covertly surround us all.  Trees tolerate our presence because we tolerate theirs.  But animate nature must be covert because we, human beings, are the great destroyers.  Four-legged creatures hide from our sight, many of the surviving species being nocturnal.  Legless creatures hide from us; the Bible tells us what to do to them.  We’ve eliminated the daytime two-legged creatures in our near environs, except for those who fly.


  • Many more of our winged cohabitants surround us than we realize.  Only a few species dare to be easily seen.  The rest take cover in the foliage.  Learn to recognize the calls of the common ones.  Then you’ll hear the other calls when they’re present, on their schedule, not yours.  To learn to see the nature all around us, we must learn to hear their voices, on their schedule, not ours.

the leaf-litter toad


  • It’s the same with our students — and all the more so, the more they are, in their deepest souls, thirsting to learn!
  • Be less concerned with herding students into the “right” answers, and more concerned with igniting their desire to seek mastery of the procedures that set them on the trail of the truth.  In its most comprehensive sense, that means critical thinking, the procedures for understanding and monitoring the ways in which credible claims are made in the various disciplines.


  • And while each discipline has its own internal rules to follow to produce its kind of credible knowledge, there must also be a higher-level form of critical thinking which adjudicates between the separate disciplines and their different kinds of claims (see Mommy, Where Do Agents Come From? for a theory of knowledge tour).  But that is usually only motivated by having achieved a bit of mastery in more than one discipline, raising the question of the powers and limits of each, and of which exerts the stronger draw, or of how to balance the different demands when drawn by more than one.
  • Be open to questions.
  • Never be afraid to say “I don’t know”.  Every discipline ascends from one level of mastery to another; every discipline descends into levels of technical detail that no one but the specialist need know.  Never pretend to know what one does not know, for either reason.
  • Never place an absolute chasm between your knowledge and theirs; if teaching is a real art, it courses over a continuous pathway from the novice to the expert.  Our job as teachers is to illumine that pathway, not to disguise it.
  • Next: So, What’s a Poor Student To Do?  Learning Without Limits, or The Limits To Your Dreams.

The Limits of Your Dreams: Farsightedness & Nearsightedness

The real magic-carpet ride: genuine education

  • By farsightedness I mean what you can envision.
  • By nearsightedness I mean your ability to plan achievable steps today to start you on your path.
  • If you lack farsightedness, you’ve put a ceiling on your dreams.  You’re aiming for the ordinary.  You are part of the mass, even if part of an elite, high-income part of the mass.  History will shape you rather than you it.  Every culture breeds its elites to live, spawn, and die, without leaving a trace, except that of representative, interchangeable units of the host culture.  In economics, they call these actors price-takers, as distinct from price-makers; the mass market determines their prices and their choices.
  • If you lack nearsightedness, you are a dreamer rather than a doer.  You will float through life, dreaming away the time and resources with which you could have built that future you dreamed of.  You live in the land of the lotus eaters.  Time will pass you by, and as your aging dreams fade, the pleasing daydreams upon which your ego feeds must become ever more enchanting and ever farther from your daily reality, until you have lost all touch with reality, a legend in your own mind, but in no one else’s.
  • You must be an Odysseus, passing between the Scylla of enslavement to the institutions and conventions within which the resources for success must be mined and the Charybdis of righteous isolation, alienation, and ultimate insignificance.
  • You must work within the institutions which are the gatekeepers to success in any field without becoming the empty canvases upon which those institutions, and their functionaries, paint their institutional needs.  You must use them for your ends rather than being used by them for theirs.
  • Now, it is right that you should be somewhat wary, hearing this from a 64-year old high school teacher.  Let’s just say I’m a late bloomer.  With your whole careers ahead of you, learn from my mistakes, and take a faster, surer path to your future.  If you have a dream, begin now, in however small a way, to lay the foundations of that dream, by planning small achievable steps, each one of which brings you nearer to that distant goal.
  • Rule #1: Determine for yourself how things really work.  Listen attentively to those more experienced than you, but don’t take their generalizations for truths unless you can demonstrate to yourself that their truths hold up to the intensest scrutiny you can bring to bear on them.
  • Rule #2: Speak your whole mind, with its reservations about their presumed truths, only to those you judge to be truth-seekers without a careerist agenda of their own.  Genuine intellectual integrity is rarer and more precious than brilliance.  Never presume that it’s there unless you see clear signs that it is.
  • Rule #3: Never stake your happiness on a distant goal.  Distant goals may never be achieved, and may transform in ways beyond your current imagination as they come closer to fruition.  To tie your happiness to a goal that may not be achievable, or not achievable in the romanticized vision you have of it from a great distance, is to set yourself up for disappointment, disillusionment, and misery.  Find the activity for which the journey is fulfilling whether or not you reach the promised land.  Because it is only the journey that you experience at first-hand at every step of the journey; the destination only exists in your imagination, until you have arrived.
  • Always remember, your “Indies” may turn out to be a whole other continent than the one that sparked your dream.
  • Remember, too, that Moses never saw the promised land.  Your pioneering path may open up horizons for those who come after you, and unless you can take joy in that, what joy can any achievement bring?  Live well, set an example, and clear a path for those who follow; that is how humankind makes the world a place worth living in.
  • Rule #4: Begin early building small platforms for further achievements which you alone control, beyond the say-so of any institution.  Do this alongside your work within institutions.  You won’t be able to avoid preexisting institutions completely but you never want to depend entirely upon them; every safe haven needs an escape hatch.
  • Rule #5: Have a small and surely achievable, yet still worthy and satisfying dream, alongside your big dream.  Great achievements cannot fill the emptiness of hollow souls.  Make sure to have a dream fit for a decent but modest human being, one that is certainly achievable if only you make the effort, alongside your big dream.  We all need the nourishment of modest but achievable dreams, even while we chase the big ones.  The American Dream is just such a modest and achievable dream; let it be your sufficient dream, while you pursue the big one.

Living the Dream Plan B - Big
                                                                                My personal motto

College, the Real Deal: Keeping It Local

Hedgehog Brimming with Self-Confidence

This is a college undergraduate CGHS super-senior’s perspective on handling some of the monstrous unknowns of the college years. From my 5-year (going-on-6-year) college experience, studying locally, living with family and commuting saves SO much money. Once one jumps the economic hurdle  with financial aid, loans and family assistance, the struggle in deciding what exactly to do can lead to unwelcome self-doubt.

This post aims to give practical advice and encouraging insight for those embarking on formal, post-secondary education.


“P” is for Parents

Tiger Mom

 If one has parents who are willing and able to support a college student, then it is worth putting up with their house rules for a few extra years. I struggle significantly with defining myself as an adult craving independence while under my overprotective parents’ roof. It’s hard (not gonna lie) but I remind myself that I am privileged to have a Hispanic family that wants me at home forever. On the bright side, I receive free lessons in humility I would otherwise miss living alone. Most importantly, I spend more time studying to build a career and less time depending on a low wage job that barely pays to meet daily needs.


Fancy or Not


Going to community colleges and local universities may not give a resume the fancy-schmancy “Oomph” most students are pre-conditioned to pursue. Let me tell you, a fulfilling education can be acquired nonetheless. Nobody looks at where you got your Associates or Bachelors from. Should I repeat that? NOBODY LOOKS! NOBODY CARES! And if they do, they’re snobs who don’t deserve you. As long as it is a nationally accredited school, students who put forth maximum effort receive the resources necessary to succeed wherever they go. An overpriced school will use the same exact textbooks as a less expensive one. You wanna go to an Ivy League? Save it for grad school.

At the end of the day, a university is a business.

If they take advantage of the statistical numbers you provide for them, then likewise take advantage of the opportunities available:

  • Apply for an Undergraduate Research Grant.
  • Join a club you don’t hate.
  • Build positive relationships with the faculty and staff.
  • Plan ahead for scholarships

These little things provide the limited experience level of a student with extra fortification.


Fake the Confidence

Look Ma, No Hands

How does one narrow down their academic passions if there is major indecision? The first thing I did was fill up all of my elective credits to test every department available and see what I liked best. It didn’t work. Time was up and I was still stuck. I liked it all and was at risk of paralyzing my future education. I’ve seen friends drop out simply because they could not make up their mind. Then they got married, had kids, and were dead broke leeching off of some basement… Fear of Falling into their Fate led me to lock in an answer and stay committed.

There is no self-help, quick fix phrase out there to help you decide what to major in. It just takes a surge of confidence.

Study what you love. If what you love has a bad rap for not providing Self-Sustaining Stability (like say: The Visual or Performing Arts), then double major and add something “safe.” Make yourself indispensable for employers by expanding your discipline beyond one rigid academic silo.

I’m studying Art and Communication. I love everything about it. Once I got over the shame-stereotype that my major is not perceived to be as “academically rigorous” as a lawyer’s, I finally treasured who I was becoming. The passion that you have, WATER IT! No one can take that away from you.


Cheese for Dessert

Cheese for Dessert

No human can tell you how to define yourself, SO whatever you do…

DON’T define yourself by:

  • what your GPA is
  • what your test scores are
  • whether or not you got scholarships
  • where you got accepted
  • what Uncle George’s opinion is of your major
  • how long you take to graduate college.
  • what your “significant other” is doing after graduation

There’s so much more than that. After you really try, relax and have confidence in who you’ll become. Discovering that is — literally — the best.