Ask any graduate student about how they are doing, and after they offer the obligatory “I’m fine”, they will almost invariably tell you how not fine their busy lives are. While this is not exclusive to graduate students or even academia, I have noticed that the continual stress of academic life tends to bring this out in students (including myself) with a particularly high frequency. By being employed in the business of learning, while still trying to live out the lifestyle of a “normal” young adult. This creates tension by loading on an endless string of commitments, and the ever ticking clock pushes all of these by so rapidly that none of them are pursued to the level that they really need to be. What we get instead is merely constant stagnation in the state of the halfway-finished, the “good enough”.
It does not really have to be this way, and yet it always ends up being this way just the same. I am currently finishing up my third semester in graduate school, and the process of working on a full-time research position, a part-time teaching assistantship, and a 500-level class have left me in a constantly exhausted state of “good enough”. I can’t be the best researcher, the best teacher, or even the best student I can be, as to do so will defeat each of the others and result in the destruction of my career in academia. And yet we expect science to be discovered, students to learn, and teachers to know their subjects like the back of their own hand.
It amazes me that this is what learning has come to: education is no longer a pursuit but rather an industry, and as such it does everything it needs to but none of what it really should. This needs to change, but as things go, no one will change it unless someone changes it. This begs the question: “Who will change it?”
My response: “Me? I don’t know if I can do that.”
And yet, I know no one else will do it, so I might as well take a stab at it…
“What’s the worst that can happen…”
This is not a protest, as protests are in their nature impersonal and imprecise, but rather a commitment. A commitment to pursue absolute truth no matter the cost. For the lack of absolute truth relegates education to merely the transfer of somewhat plausible opinions, in which case anything can (and likely will) be taught, which utterly destroys any reason to teach in the first place.
The fact that I value absolute truth does not mean I think I am always right. Rather, it allows me to be mistaken, as there is some overall standard which I can (and eventually will) have to stand up to. This leads to the fact that any true educator must always admit: I am a biased person. I hold specific views about the world, and my experiences are all interpreted through that lens. For example, I believe in the fact that there is a all-powerful God who created the universe and everything in it. While this could be a mistake on my part, all the evidence I have seen supports this. This is my belief regarding a specific absolute truth (whether God exists or not), and in order to debate whether God exists or not, this must be an absolute truth, otherwise there could be a God and no god at the same time, and wouldn’t that be confusing.
So lets go and find real, unequivocal truth, no matter how uncomfortable or inconvenient it is, and reinvent education in the process. I hope you will come along for the ride.
n.b. I do not expect the reader (you) to agree completely with my view of what absolute truth is, but rather that it exists in some form, and that we may never know all the details. Everything on this blog will derive from that foundational assumption, and you may find this blog tedious or unhelpful if you believe in truth that is relative in nature. If you are not convinced that truth has to be absolute, I encourage you to at least consider the possibility.