Posts Tagged ‘history’

All Hands On Ship! Philosophy’s Been Hit!

February 26, 2009

Apparently the Humanities are under siege and we are supposed to care.  This is something that came up often in my MA classes. The university I went to had a new president who was less than enthusiastic about the role the humanities took and the amount of money it swallowed up. Though he was also more than willing to rake in the cash the composition requirements pulled in, which was a ton, as they were the largest money makers in the course catalog.

But I would often hear professors, especially the young ones who were more vocal, express their dismay about how the president looked down his nose at the humanities and how the university was just wanting to churn out a workforce for the local area that were similar to drone bees in a hive than to human beings. Many of the things cited in the article, such as money and readily available career options, were cited as reasons the humanities were somewhat less important than hard science and medical degrees while the humanities shot back that they were a core component of basic competancy and ethical deliberation for the other disciplines.

I sided more with the president than with the professors teaching my courses.  And I side more with whoever the Times article likely wasn’t targeted at.

English, foreign language, philosphy, etc. professors may not like to admit it but pondering the meaning of life or reading Jane Austen isn’t really a necessary component of day to day living. And their courses are not required to form anyone’s ethical grounds nor are they even needed for the survival of the arts they criticize. In short, they aren’t the most necessary of courses.

This isn’t to say they aren’t enjoyable. Nor that they don’t lead to a more enriched life experience. But they also don’t necessarily help pay the bills. Or at least they don’t help as much as, say, a nursing degree and I can always read Sartre in my spare time.

Besides, maybe it’s a good thing that the humanities might contract a bit. One of the most often mentioned gripes that I heard in my time milling around professors was the pace now required in churning out articles for publication. It had literally become a grind where it was a constant battle that was difficult to win when a full slate of classes was piled on top of it. With the humanities dialing back a bit, perhaps the competition will lessen and more time will be given to fewer papers.

Regardless of what happens, I’m really not overly concerned about the humanities. They’ve survived for this long, they’ll still be there tomorrow. They might just find themselves back where the article postulates: in the hands of people who can afford it.

Diaries, steno books and phlegm

October 30, 2008

yesterday I was at my grandma’s and I was helping her clean out closets. Grandpa died in April. We’ve been trying to get her to pack everything up and to get ready to move out but it’s like pulling teeth so wanting help cleaning out the closets was welcomed progress. one closet held a bunch of stuff that’s typical of old women. Old little baskets for fake flowers. Plastic junk, trinkets. That foam stuff you cram into flower pots. Bits of cloth. Etc.

The second closet was interesting, though. There was an old yellow pinto and a radio. Greatgrandma, grandma’s mother, owned a real yellow pinto which she bought soon after the brakes in her Chevy went out. The radio was just a radio. Then came a couple of boxes which got placed into a larger box on the floor. And then came the album after album after album. Some were photo albums. Some were scrapbooks. Big things. Old things. With the rope binding at the one end, tied into a knot in front. they go into a box. Grandma pulled the box over and started going through them. I pull more down from the attic. she starts talking about the pictures and scraps pasted in.

Grandma’s talking and I’m leafing through another album. Then I open one of the little boxes and I look inside. Grandma glances over and says,  “Oh, more diaries. I’ll have to pitch them, too.” Some months ago, a year ago maybe when Grandpa was still alive, there was some consternation over finding that Grandma had secretly burned a bunch of her mother’s diaries. These had been hidden away in the cupboard and she had forgotten about them.

Knowing this history, I grabbed them and kept them with me. When it came time to go, they left with me. Grandma glanced at them. I asked if she wanted to look through them and she said no, it was okay. I could read them. So I’ve brought them home and I read them a bit now every day.

They are nothing overly special. Just little notes on the day. Temperture. Something that happened. They only cover the last 15 years or so of her life and take up next to no space. I see my name mentioned occasionally. I wish I had the ones that hadn’t been burned so I could see other names mentioned. But these little notes on the day is really not so different from the poetry I write. I read what she writes and I see in it the familiar. The effort of noting something. Of laying down a mark.

Every once in awhile I keep a little stenopad of poems that I try to work on every day. Fill it up, move on to the next. They probably all suck but they’re really not much different from what great grandma was doing  and I wonder if it’s really different from the majority of poetry-recounting the time in some way. Trying to find that special nugget of existence.

Unfortunately, I appear to have lost a recent notebook. I can’t find it anywhere and it’s already been through so much. It was submerged into a pool and had many of its pages washed clean. It was wrinkled and crackly as I would hold it my hands and a lot of the pages no longer had lines to write along. And I feel like a part of me is just gone now. I’m happy greatgrandma didn’t have to know her daughter would burn her diaries. And I’m fairly certain I will never burn one of my own notebooks, regardless of how embarassing and/or poorly written it might be,

I’m trying to write more. But I’ve been sick lately. Hacking all of the time. I find it hard to write when I’m not feeling well. Blah.