11 September 2015

Links I'm Liking This Week

I've found some pretty good reads this week and thought I'd pass them along. Here are the links (in some cases with my more-extensive-than-planned commentary) I've been liking so far.

I came across this article thanks to a graduate student (if you're reading, thanks!). The title is enough of an eye catcher, isn't it? Its basic premise is that neoliberalism has changed the face of colleges, and particularly the study of liberal arts. Instead of attending college for the sake of learning, people go to college to grab a degree and then land a job which will keep them productive and, one hopes, well-to-do. A couple of notes:

  1. Of course, one should better themselves and prepare to have a good job. If your livelihood is hanging in the balance, you're going to want to do what you can to appear the best to potential employers. I don't think that that is the argument on the table. Rather, the question is whether college is meant to be an environment for internships six-figure job searches.
  2. If one intends to go to a university and spend all their time partying, well, that isn't going to do much good, is it? I sometimes would run into such people who would talk about skiving classes and prepping for parties that evening or weekend. Not everyone who attends college is college material, either. It probably sounds harsh, but not everyone can be the best or most talented: it just doesn't work that way. Lest you think I believe myself perfect, an example: I can't be a star athlete. It isn't in the cards (and if you saw me play any sort of organized sport, you would understand). There's obviously a way to do well at college and a way not to do well.

So what do we make of these two points? College isn't for everyone. (Trade school is an option and what I really think would be good is a stronger push towards things like that.) Historically, college has been a place to learn how to learn, to reason, and to improve one's mind by extensive reading. College has been a place to round out one's character and learn how to become a better person. It isn't just about the paycheck one hopes to get afterwards (but now, as the article points out, most people major in fields like business, communications and technology-geared studies). It isn't about hinging school-wide goals on vague slogans like "leadership," which no one, not even a university dean, can define.

Deresiewicz highlights a couple of comments commonly said in response to a student's announced major: "So you decided to go for the big bucks" and "What are you going to do with that?" I find these quotations so interesting, partly because I've heard the second one before (again, philosophy major), but also because they sound so similar to comments I hear directed at families with multiple children: "You know what causes that, don't you?" and "Are you done yet?" Perhaps comments and questions like these aren't meant as insensitively as they sound, but there are a lot of assumptions flying around and not a lot of looking into the value of people or certain studies. Exactly how open to conversation is the questioned person going to be after that point? In addition, how can anything contradictory or even explanatory not sound like a defense, to which the questioner can reply with a chuckle? Should everything we go after be for monetary gain or for personal ease and comfort? Should we not open ourselves up to the possibility of learning more about the world and ourselves?

Learning is what it is all about, or what it should all be about. Deresiewicz writes, "If college is seldom about thinking and learning anymore, that’s because very few people are interested in thinking and learning, students least of all." How sad! And how truly bizarre. Still, so often I sat in lectures of 300 people asking questions like: "What (least amount of work) do I have to do to pass this class?" instead of "What does Wittgenstein mean when he says x? If I accept this premise, what does that mean I must believe as a consequence?" or "I find the Milgram experiment to be immoral and this is why..." (And I studied philosophy!) People often seemed more interested in getting a passing grade (honestly, the lowest C would do) than really delving into the topic at hand, facing seemingly impossible problems, finding satisfying resolutions and emerging a stronger, more capable person in the end.

Yes, it is good to study topics which will help us be good workers and support ourselves. Anyone frustrated by being branded with the lazy/arrogant/free-loading millennial label would surely want to prove themselves. But going after an education (if you can call it that) which will only get us a six figure job also runs into a problem, as Deresiewicz continues: 

"[T]he biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now."

Where do morals and values enter the scene when everything is focused on monetary gain? If more money can be gained by exhausting the earth and eventually replacing humans with robots, where will we six figure job seekers be? Turning to those who droned on about the inherent value of human beings? Turning to those who were truly creative in their approach to the world? Turning to those idealists and dreamers, reformers and protectors of what we once held sacred?

I feel like this article speaks so much to what our society is like now, and even gives an indication of how we have gotten to the point of accepting things like abortion and euthanasia. When we see certain groups of people as expendable, it becomes easier to deem them without purpose (and if you have no purpose or use in society, you're out). In this way, I find this article to be very similar to the one above. We have gotten entirely backwards what makes a person valuable or a topic worth pursuing. When we stop caring about people for their own sake or about learning for its own sake, we really miss out on opportunities to do what humans were designed to do: love and learn.

Off the soap box a little, now. If an article features a Wendell Berry quotation, chances are I will enjoy it. From The Work of Local Culture, he says:

“There used to be a sort of institution in our part of the country known as ‘sitting till bedtime’ After supper, when they weren’t too tired, neighbors would walk across the fields to visit each other. They popped corn, my friend said, and ate apples and talked. They told each other stories. They told each other stories as I knew myself, that they all had heard before. Sometimes they told stories about each other, about themselves, living again their own memories and thus keeping their memories alive. Among the hearers of these stories were always the children.”

Berry's quotation reminds me of stories I've heard about women in a neighborhood doing laundry together and bringing the children with to play in the yard. The sense of community, I feel, has largely vanished. What Leila from Like Mother, Like Daughter calls collective memory has also largely vanished. A century ago, knowledge was passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter. People went to family members for information, tips and tricks. The idea of inheritance and tried-and-true methods was woven into life.

That all hinged on community, on respect for people of all ages, on often multi-dimensional families, which we now only see when we study other societies (I'm thinking here particularly of Mexican and South American culture that I studied when I learned Spanish). I feel lucky that I, though only for a brief time, lived with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. Four generations in one house (and after we didn't live with them, we established weekly visits). I think when a lot of people lose their grandparents, it doesn't always come as a big shock. I have talked to many a person who has said that their grandparents died before they were old enough to understand or form strong attachments; otherwise, they felt like their grandparents were practically strangers. In either of these cases (though the former is harder to control), opportunities to learn about the family, about what life was once like, and about where you come from are just off the table. They can never get back onto the table, either.

However, if we take note of how important and valuable each person and their stories are, we can open up a treasure chest which holds gems from the past to give us insight into the future. Why would we not seize such an opportunity? 

This is the Etsy website for the artist friend I mentioned in my previous post (who gifted us with some of her paintings so that now our drab apartment is a little more colorful and doughnut-ified). My favorite work on her page is Seattle Melting. I really like the color palette and think it has such a clean finish. It almost looks like it was made digitally. I hope she does more similar cityscapes! Hop over and take a look at what she's selling.

4. The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle

There is another bundle, this time the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle, available now until Monday the 14th. If you don't know what these are, bloggers and health lovers alike get together to bring readers knowledge, personal advice and tons of products aimed at improving your health naturally. Basically, if you're looking for allergy-free recipes, fitness tips, natural remedies and more like-minded things, this is the bundle for you. You'll get dozens of eBooks, online courses and bonuses to get you on track for healthy and, I'd definitely say, confident living. I purchased one of these bundles last year (bundles between years are different) and have yet to go through all of the materials. The amount of information you get is insane (and I love having something to delve into). One of the best parts is it is all less than $30. For real. Scoop it up in the next couple of days.

5. Playlist Party!
I have created a playlist for the month as well, in case you are interested in what I'm listening to at the moment. It's pretty relaxed, easy listening, which I usually reserve for Fall/Winter. As it's still resolutely in the 90s, I'm hoping the music will trick me into thinking it is a bit cooler. Think it will work? ;)


  1. Kinda fun to see how our reading overlaps! I've gotten 'ultimate ______ bundle' 2 or 3 times before, and enjoyed it, but never really got the full value out of them. But I've got the books to read!

    I love Like Mother Like Daughter and believe that Auntie Leila has lots of good to say. And yes, I do hope that we have live in grandparents some day.

    If I can get myself organized I might have fun stuff to share, too!

    1. Hi Rachel! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I feel that way about some of the bonuses. I'm sure some people like and make use of all or most of them, but I did end up getting some where I was like, "This is neat, but I'm never going to use it." Not because they are bad things, but because they just don't fit into what I do. The books are fun and I really need to open them up more often.

      LMLD is so good. I feel like Leila is my aunt in real life. She just pours over with wisdom for wives and mothers (or even single women; she seems to give good advice across the board). I've turned many a time to the blog thinking, "What does Auntie Leila say about x?" I'm never disappointed. :)

      I look forward to reading anything that you write!