The End In Peripheral Vision

I’ve reached a point of excitement towards graduation where the shine is starting to wear away and I’m looking on towards brighter, shinier, future goals. It’s thrilling still, of course! Graduation played the part of Endgame in my life for so long that it’s hard to think of what comes after. But now, it’s mere weeks away and I find myself genuinely wondering about the parts that come after. I’m in awe of the possibilities…

Of course, first and foremost, the majority of those possibilities are titles of books that I have been dreaming of reading for fun and pleasure. Les Mis? A Song of Ice and Fire? Tolkien? Here I come, with no intention to write papers about you! I plan to explore jobs, get experience, read those books at long last, and discover what it means to have a life outside of education.

I find myself looking at graduation the same way that Satrapi looks at the war — the complete endgame is a side event, something that will eventually happen, but the events around it are what catch and grab at my attention. She shouts for bombing Baghdad, wanting to make an impression of her position, and I shout for the chance to read books, wanting to make an impression of my completion of education. It feels a bit hollow, writing it out, but there are little victories there, I suppose. I have completed a major step in life, the first in my family to do so, and now I get to enjoy the victory and spoils.

I feel as though my education and the books I read will continue to play an allegorical role in the whole of my life, as I read and explore and grow and find new metaphors for my life. I will always be looking to the head, to the forefront, enjoying the victories, but knowing there is ever more to come. Graduation is thrilling, a relief, but I know that so much more comes after it — more education, though we know my current feelings on that; job opportunities, of many imaginable sorts;  and living, reading books and doing the things I’ve put off for college. As Satrapi faces the events of the war and how they affect her and her life, so I face my education and how it affects me and my life (though education is hardly so dire as war) and I find that the event of graduation itself falls to the wayside in the looming presence of Real Life After School rising up before me.

My nervous jitters and excitement no longer focus on the fact that I am graduation, but the options that open to me once graduation is done.

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.”

– J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Literary Prophet

Lately, in class, we have been exploring the nuances and ideas of Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. A beautiful comic, in my opinion, but one idea in particular intrigued me. In the early segments, Satrapi reveals that she fancied herself a prophet as a child, wanting to change the world through traditional values and moral improvement, primarily from the start of wanting the family maid to sit at the dinner table with the family. The naivety of this idea, of bypassing classes by forcing one’s self into the position of prophet, intrigued me, connecting in strange ways to our previous discussions about how to bring English and Literature back into the world. My brain works in mysterious and confusing ways (even to me).

Do we not, in some way, as Lit Majors, fancy ourselves prophets? Do some of us not wonder, on occasion, at the thought of being the one who will draw the love of books back to the rest of the world? (I do, at least, and I’m going to run with the idea that some others do as well.)

I think, in the heart of ourselves, most of us hope to inspire, to be that prophet of literary love, be it to a collection of students, to a community, or even something so lofty as the entire world, to change society itself to appreciate books once and for all, because damn it, books are good! I take immense pride in any situation where I manage to convince a person to pick up more books than they intended to read, even if they number is just one. I don’t even know if they’ll read it that day, or that week, but you know what? They have that book and that is what matters.

Or does it?

Is the simple change of getting someone to own a book enough? Is it enough to let the maid sit at the dinner table? Or is there more to it, a ‘something more’ that eludes the situation and keeps it from fully realizing itself?

I believe it circles back to inspiring not just interest, but passion. We have to inspire a passion to explore, light the fire (so to speak) and make a person-holding-a-book into a reader. We have to let the maid sit at the table and share the same benefits to life that we enjoy — we have to imagine including her in all aspects of life, not just at the dinner table. A social change has to be pushed for, be it in one person or a few, but enough to try and make an effect, bit by bit…

Maybe, individually, we might not be prophets, destined to bring light to all in the world and illuminate books and reading. But together, all of us? I think we have got enough in us to do a prophet’s work and make a change that will be lasting.

The Graduation Dilemma

We recently spent a class period discussing the options of graduate school, how to apply, where to apply, what to consider when working in college, and it was actually a rather strange class for me. I had never considered graduate school. It seemed like just another way for me to end up piling more debt upon myself, another means to leash myself to even more schooling (when I already feel like I’ve been in school for far too long), and another means for me to study a field that my family doubts I should be studying in the first place. I sat in class, silent, listening to others discuss their plans for graduate school, their experiences in already trying to get into graduate school, the things they might do, the places they might go, and I found myself just constantly thinking, should I be doing this, too? Should I be poking at grad schools, wondering if I have the qualifications to spend even more of my life in whirlwind classrooms? Can I prove myself worthy of a Masters degree?

The whole of it is, honestly, overwhelming. I know I lack the ‘WOW’ factor when it comes to applying to grad schools (few would be fighting for a commuter who struggled through a year of school, failed to involve herself in the social aspect of campus, and didn’t really leave any sort of mark). But would it be worth it to try? I’ve already gone further than any other in my family has before – neither of my parents have degrees and have only done smatterings of college – but could I go any further? What would it do for me, to try and go further?

The idea of going to school even longer honestly causes a sense of dread, but the logical part of my mind says that it would be worth it. Is there any harm in pushing myself further, in making myself more and opening more opportunities for myself? We talk often of cultural literacy and the worth of knowledge and education in class. Grad school would give me just that. But do I really have what it takes? It all circles back to the qualification of my knowledge – which is all that I have to represent me. I have not presented in a symposium. I have not held office in a club, or even attended a club meeting. I have not been in a performance or at a rally, or even at a simple gathering. I work, and I live 45 minutes away from the campus — my options are limited in involving myself. But could I still prove myself to a school that would be interested in pushing me to a further degree?

It is something I might have to contemplate for a while, as I face an already high-stacked pile of debt, just from a Bachelor’s degree. I think I would enjoy pushing myself to the next step… but it all comes down to qualification and quantification and whether the money is worth the struggle, and the struggle is worth not letting myself experience the world for a few years longer.

Resume Work-In-Progress, Life WIP

In class today, we will be looking at our resumes and trying to solve the problem of making ourselves interesting to potential employers. We will be building ourselves up to match that which we have learned and explored in such a way that the financial, business world will care about what we have poured student loans and financial aid into. It has been a constant concern of mine – to the point of pretending that I don’t have the file saved in a special folder and I don’t check it compulsively to see if there is anything I can tweak or perfect. How do I make myself an interesting, potential employee that some company might want to bring in?

A lot of my concern comes from awareness of my imperfects. I often see students who have been involved in campus activities, who have worked hard to make a name for themselves long before entering the job market. And then I see myself, working a retail job and involving myself in little, simply because of obligations elsewhere — and a completely, overwhelmingly embarrassed, introverted personality. I know this fault is my own – this idea that I am not ‘good enough’ – but I know it has held me back intensely from making the mark I should have during college in order to ensure that my college degree is not a complete loss.

So how I improve myself? How do I take a resume and the meager existence I have eked out in my college career and make myself stand out just as much as the students who have promising graduate careers, who have experience in writing and publishing, who know what they want to do with their lives and their degrees? I think this, right out, is the biggest issue. I love my degree. I love the books I have studied, the ideas I have learned, the way that I have learned to think and interpret. But I do not know its place in the ‘real’ world. I do not know the worth of my degree, and it honestly drives me a bit mad. I tell people who ask that I want to go into ‘editing and publishing’ because I don’t want them to assume that I am going to be a teacher, and these feel like the only options I have that will ‘satisfy’ others (even strangers).

I don’t know what I want to actually do with my Bachelor’s degree in Literature. I love it, but I have no purpose for it yet. But at the same time, I find myself only worried about this in the sense of not knowing how to get a job related to it. I do not regret my degree, and I will be proud of it. But I don’t want to waste it. I would love to get a job related to my degree, but what is available to me, and how do I make myself appealing after two bad semesters and a rough start to college, after never joining a club, never taking part in a magazine or a newspaper?

The path seems dark (and full of terrors), but with my worry, there is excitement. There are possibilities open to me… and I’m just reaching the step of actually finding those possibilities.

Long Blog: On Books and Why I Keep Buying Them

Thankfully, more often than not, I’m not asked about why I buy so many books, because I have family and friends who either understand my love of books or share my love of books. My family has come to accept their fate of having a bibliophile in the family — my mother has learned to stop buying me clothes for birthdays, and instead buys me books, and my grandparents buy me giftcards for bookstores instead of gas stations (though I really could use the gas cards to get to some of those far-off bookstores…). But I have met people who have seen me with my arms full of books to buy, while they carry just one or two, and have asked me why I’m buying so many books. And for the longest moment, all I can do is stare, because why wouldn’t I buy so many books? Why wouldn’t I buy all of the books that I could, add stories to the stories waiting in my library at home, and give myself as many worlds and words to explore as possible? I want to turn around and ask them, why are you buying so few books? Why are you buying two, when you could buy six, and explore worlds you might not have ever let yourself explore before?

In class, we were trying to discuss having a reading culture, encouraging readers in people instead of having a society where reading books is a devalued activity. I distinctly remember being told, when younger but entering into the years where it was becoming strange for me to spend all of my time in books, “Put that book down and go outside to play with your friends!” I could never say that my closest friends were in the books, sure that my mother wouldn’t take well to that answer. It tore at me, that my choice of hobby was never as highly valued as those hobbies that involved being out in the sun or running around in the grass. (These opinions changed later when I met friends who were readers and showed me that we could actually write our own stories by playing in the sun and in the grass, and this was how I learned about something like ‘acting’ for the first time.)

Why do we discourage reading, as a society? Why do we chase books from children’s hands, make them focus on ‘better’ things? I believe it comes down to whether or not reading can be seen as a ‘qualitative’ activity. What is the value of reading? What does reading gain for you? “Can you make a living doing that?” (I have lost count of how many times I have been asked this, even by strangers.) People cannot find a value in spending hours in words, taking in worlds completely outside of our own. Instead, people see reading as a waste of time. So how do we change that?

Fostering pride in reading seems like an incredibly daunting task. So many times, I hear parents talk about how their kids hate reading, never want to read, or parents who are completely confused when their child actually enjoys reading and wants to get them books just to keep them happy, rather than getting books the child will enjoy. Our society does not know how to handle reading! Most people do not know how to approach reading, how to take the first steps towards reading book after book and living in world after world and growing their own world into something even more fantastic in the process. Most people approach books with the same fear that I have when I approach poetry — how do they read it? Is there some fantastic beam of light that will help them to understand every aspect of the book?

The first way to begin fostering a sense of respect, rather than a sense of dismissal, about reading. But this still sounds like an astronomical first task, doesn’t it? So again, how do we teach people to read — but moreso, how do we teach people to love reading? I certainly don’t have all of the answers to make the whole world respect reading as a whole, but I do know that there are things that could help. We need to include reading in more things — a fellow classmate mentioned including readings in history classes by encouraging students to read historical fiction, or using science fiction to explore the nuances of science. We need to include reading as a natural aspect of all of life, and offer to help students understand what they read, rather than simply shoving facts into their heads and hoping the ideas stick long enough for them to regurgitate answers onto a test before the dates and ideas fade away.

Where we stand, we need to cultivate passion. We need to, somehow, teach people that books don’t need to inspire fear. I believe a large portion of the problem comes from people approaching books with the idea that they must glean something from it. Passion, in this case, needs to be taught. We need to show people that there is more to books than just absorbing facts and regurgitating them onto paper, we need to encourage students to include reading in all aspects of their lives, to thrive in reading and to explore reading as more than just a chore. And I think this, this last aspect in particular, is key. Reading becomes as droll as vacuuming, or doing the dishes, or folding laundry — a thing that must be done, rather than a thing that one wants to do.

From youth, we learn that reading is a thing that we should want to do less of, something we should put aside in exchange for doing something outdoors, for doing something with others, for doing anything else. Instead, we should be learning that reading can be done alongside those things. We can read in the sun and in the grass. We can read with and for friends. We can bring books with us anywhere, and enjoy them in any aspect. Instead of teaching our children to go outside and do something “productive”, we should instead be teaching them that reading can be used as a tool within productivity. Words inspire and create, broaden cultural literacy and language, and help a mind come up with more than the basics. Reading books is not a chore — reading books cultivates the mind. We simply need to teach our youth to include books in their lives, rather than leaving them behind to do more ‘qualitative things.’

Things I Wish My Teachers Had Said To Me About Reading

During our reading of Michael Berube’s work “Students In and Out of Class,” I found myself wondering about what might inspire students in doing the reading without the pressure of quizzes and ultimatums about doing the reading. I know that I, personally, will occasionally shirk reading, if I have a ton of it to do and shifts at work coming up, but I also know that some things hold me back. I always find myself wanting to read, but feeling this hint of reluctance, because I know I will have to pick apart whatever I enjoy and have to dive into the “deeper nuances” of the text to the point of feeling as though I have shred apart the aspects of the text that I loved. I approach the text with reined enjoyment and instead look at the text with dread at trying to find the “answer” that I know my teacher will be looking for when I come into class.

It is this “answer,” this one right answer, that looms over me, knowing that what I am looking for will be the right answer on the quiz, the way to “succeed” in the class. It makes reading a bit more… stressful, really. And while I understand that there are plenty of reasons for quizzes and for ultimatums to make sure that students read, I feel that the “one right answer” issue continues to haunt me even in college. There are a few things that I wish my teachers had actually said to me, which might help to inspire that passion for reading (as we discussed in class), rather than stifling it by approaching books with only “quiz” intentions.

  • “You can be right in being ‘wrong’.”

In high school (and in early college classes), I often found myself stressing to only give “right” answers. Teachers and professors pressed into the heads of students that there was a “right” way to respond to the readings and the ideas in them. Encouragement for differentiating thought was… nonexistent. The only answer to find would be the one that could get you an A on the exam. It would have been wonderful to hear from a teacher that the devil’s advocate position was open! That to disagree was welcome, to encourage thought outside of the exam, so long as ideas could be backed up — I think that this tactic, of encouraging students to explore nuances that they picked up, could do wonders for inspiring students to read.

  • “The curtains were blue. That’s it.”

Does everything really have to be about meaning and metaphor? I feel sometimes that peering into every nook and cranny of interpretation just destroys the text, making it difficult for students to enjoy the readings. How hard can it be to enjoy a reading, as a student, when you find yourself wondering just how many layers you should peel away before you can tell yourself that you understand the text? It would be have been such a relief to read a text and not have it completely picked apart…

  • “You can love them.”

I have a tendency to become attached to the characters within novels, no matter the novel, genre, or plot. One character eases into ‘favorite’ territory, and I take what happens to them quite personally. I become invested in their lives, in imagining them going through their daily routines. And then, in classes, these characters are picked apart and made into shades of themselves, and I am told that there is no reason to be invested in them, that they exist solely as metaphors or allusions or as shades of ideas. Their histories exist only to add to the plot-aspect they were built to fill. But just once, it would have been nice to be told that I could, in fact, love them– that I could love the villain for more than existing as a representation of the bourgeoisie power in society, or that I could love the child for more than being an allusion to some past novel in order to reflect the similarities of the stories. To be told that I could appreciate the characters for being “people” would certainly have helped me in approaching books with a more receptive, open mind.

 

I do understand the purpose of needing to make sure understanding is accomplished, that all of the layers need to be explored in order to expand students’ minds and make them into greater thinkers… But sometimes, it would just be wonderful to quietly explore a text and speak about the simple things we enjoy in the story.

But, honestly, it’s a bit of a pipe dream…

Text in Translation

Last semester, in the face of having some extra money after buying my books for classes, I decided to buy myself a few books for fun – as is my way. I can never resist obtaining more books, to add to my library both physically and mentally. It took me hours, to select and buy the books I wanted, trying to squeeze as many into the total I had limited myself to, buying many used (because second-hand books are no less loveable for their worn covers). Onto that list, I found myself giving in and obtaining Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, a novel I had been itching to read for some time – to read a story through a sense not normally explored, to see through scent instead of sight and learn the world and tale in that manner. The novel is originally written in German, and so I bought the translation, because my German is no where near where it would need to be in order for me to actually be able to read the novel.

It was not until days later, receiving confirmation of shipment, that I discovered that the translation I purchased, for a mere dollar-fifty, was in fact in Spanish.

I was stricken. Spanish? Where my German is minimal, my Spanish is worse, and attempts to contact the shop who sold it to me found me at a loss, unable to get a different copy and unwilling to pay an additional five dollars to ship it back for a dollar-fifty refund. It seemed futile, and I was flustered. How was I ever going to read this novel, in a language I did not know?

Now, in hindsight, with a Spanish-translation of a novel I have never read sitting on my shelf, faced with translated poetry in our Senior Seminar class, I find myself smiling. I wonder, constantly, and what I could read in that novel I cannot understand and what might be there that I might not get in an English translation or in the original German text. The idea of a novel changing with translation fascinates me, makes me want to learn as many languages as I can just for the sake of being able to read original language printings, and translations in many forms, to see what differences there are to be learned.

The power of language continues to enamor and fascinate me. The world is formed in language, categorized and organized, and really, created. I keep looking at languages and what they do for people in preparation for our Multi-Genre Project and find myself falling more and more in love with the societal and cultural power of language. If I read Perfume in Spanish, will I fall in love with different colors, or will different scents come to mean different passions to me? In German, will I come to find the true and natural and “pure” story, or will it be another interpretation of a possible world?

If I read it in English, what will I lose?

Unreliable Narrators

Nothing haunts me quite like the unreliable narrator. It is an option that almost frightens me to consider, as a reader, but fascinates me in contemplation as a writer. To tell or be told a story, only to reveal or discover that what you have been told it wrong and the lessons you have learned might be forged in falsehoods… It’s thrilling, similar to how it can be thrilling to play a prank on an unsuspecting victim. I hadn’t expected to be exposed to an unreliable narrator in Orhan Pamuk’s work, but the notes toward the end left me almost stunned as I realized that everything I had read might have been littered with falsehoods, exaggerations, underestimations, and mythical laudings to make the story more than it already was… or could have been, or less than what it could have been.

The variability of what could be the real truth leads me right back to my thoughts on language and its fluctuations. Language is the vehicle of the unreliable narrator, the tools used to build the story, and it makes me wonder about the difference between being intentionally and accidentally unreliable – having the knowledge and language to tell a story with falsehoods or lacking the knowledge and language to engage in the truth of the story.

But what is the truth?

Could the unreliable narrator really be reliable, but just not telling the story that others feel should be told?

I find my thoughts going to the work of George R. R. Martin, his Song of Ice and Fire series. In thi, he has said outright that Sansa Stark is an unreliable narrator, giving accounts of happenings that are countered by other characters, dismissed as totally incorrect, childish fancy. But it could simply be that she is remembering her world as it appears to her, piecing together events as best as she remembers them. Does this necessarily make her unreliable?

Could it be said that a lack of language, of cultural literacy, is what leads to unreliability? Or the exploitation of this lack of cultural literacy? Could Sansa not understand that intricacies of the world she is in, and therefore creates metaphors for the events around her, so she can be capable of discussing them? Could it be that Orhan tells a story that he might not understand without creating caricatures and archetypes from the people in a truthful tale?

There’s something poetic about the concept, maybe, but also something pressing. While a lovely idea, to create metaphor and tell a story through one’s eyes, readers find themselves facing an unreliable tale through an unreliable narrator, through something so simple as a lack of cultural literacy. Without understanding of what is truly happening, what is truth, the story becomes muddled and uncertain as those lacking cultural literacy and language to communicate try to share the story with others. Sansa, Orhan, and others, who have lost or not yet gained their cultural literacy, deserve the opportunity to gain and share the truth.

Long Blog: Outside of Language and Literacy

In class, it was interesting to step into the philosophical land of literature, merging two interests of mine together into a class discussion that left me feeling more than a little dazed and lost as I drove home afterward. The world felt surreal after, contemplating the power of language and therefore the power of literature itself while hurtling down the highway toward home. I thought of home and I thought of what home meant, and “home” is a word that I feel has an incredibly variable truth from person to person. Just thinking of the wide spectrum of definition when relating to the topic of “home” left me reeling.

 

But in class, one particular statement caught and held me, replaying in my head throughout my honestly fumbling contemplations. “We can’t know the world outside of language,” I heard, and something lit in me that had me hooked on the idea. I thought of the allegory of the cave, of course, of blind folk facing a strange world and making up names to understand the things they see, creating concepts in order to form a structure of understanding and therefore a basis of comfort and contentment. Without order, there is not only chaos, but anxiety. Language becomes our system of order, our means of compartmentalizing and organization, creating definitions that may shift and change but generally maintain the concept necessary in order to fit things into that definition.

 

(Except, of course, when it comes to those who like to watch the world burn and decide to mess with definition, but that is another thing entirely.)

 

A world without these necessary definitions seems as though it might collapse, and the idea can be terrifying. Imagine looking to a chair and one person says ‘horse’ and another says ‘brown’ and another says ‘strength’ and in some way they’re all right and all wrong at the same time, because of the lack of agreement for definition.

 

Thinking on this had me thinking further on prior topics. We cannot know the world outside of language, but I found myself wondering if we could know the world outside of literacy? It seemed that cultural literacy has become yet another fiery topic, one of heated discussion as to what it is, what importance it holds, how one gets it, and who is in the best position to have it. It certainly presents itself as a next layer to the discussion of what language is – we cannot have literacy without language – and I found myself facing the same contemplations as I considered. Can we know the world outside of literacy? We may have definitions for things, but what are those definitions without context? Can we know what a horse is, as a creature to be ridden, without having the literacy to know about riding?

 

We find ourselves facing a world of chaos and disorganization without language, and I believe we face the same without literacy. We can know words, but they mean little to us without literacy to back up the definitions. In class, we discussed the prevalence of cultural narratives in our lives, from court rooms to economics to religion to pop culture, holidays, commercials, even the animal kingdom. As well, the text we read presents one of the main concepts of Mink as us understanding a narrative by the meaning built into words by the intersection of reader, writer, and text. Cultural narratives flood our lives and even formulate our selves, memories defining our experience and memories being a form of cultural narrative. Our worlds are built on narrative and those narratives falter and crumble in the face of one being without literacy.

 

I find myself harkening back to the importance of sharing cultural literacy. We risk leaving one another in the dark to our own cultural narratives, to one another’s cultural narratives, without sharing that literacy with one another. Hirsch gives us a list that he feels every literate American should know, but even that list falters in the face of shifting definition – I still don’t know what it means to be fully culturally literate and I’m sure that I never will – but the fact remains that there are things that should be known in order for one to understand the cultural narrative of self and of those around the self. Without that knowledge, we find ourselves in a world of disorganized chaos and loss, trying to piece together a narrative from half-formed and half-filled out definitions, definitions without context. Cultural literacy provides a full narrative – those who struggle to find cultural literacy find themselves trapped in reading the abridged versions of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry with the metaphors replaced by statements of the obvious.

 

I find myself standing by my believe that cultural literacy should be shared. It should be given when asked for, for the enrichment of the planet as a whole. There are those who will say it is a bore or it is not their job to lecture or educate, but it could be as simple as letting someone borrow a book or a computer. Directing them to a library. Showing them to a person willing to answer questions. Not every conversation needs to be an act of education, but I also feel that a conversation including education could prove to be an enlightening experience – often, one can learn even more through the act of sharing knowledge. The social world aches for the people in it to understand the narrative, instead of the majority fumbling in the dark to find the plot, and those who have glimpses, I feel, should share those glimpses with others.

 

Cultural literacy looms as the next step above understanding language. Through understanding language, we understand the world, ourselves, those around us. Through attaining cultural literacy, we understand our narrative, finding new meaning in our language and stepping into the world with more on our minds. When we know more, we do more, we accomplish more. Share the more and help save others from abridged texts, from cultural loss, and from losing their own narrative.

The Irksome Inquiry

What does it mean to be culturally literate? I found myself mulling over this question constantly while we were in class, trying to come up with a definition – some quantitative measurement to define what it meant to be literate in the cultural sphere, weighing concept against concept to, honestly, maybe try to convince myself that I am culturally literate. A feeling lingers that if you don’t meet certain requirements of ‘literacy,’ you are lacking and need to ‘fix’ what you lack in order to actually fit in. It’s like I mentioned in class, about being a literature major without having read certain ‘classical’ texts – if you haven’t read them, you aren’t ‘done’ yet. But if I’m not done yet… how do I gain that obscure ‘cultural literacy’ badge?

One thing in particular stood out to me about discussing cultural literacy in our class, and it was the notion that, it seemed to me, those who were not culturally literate were to blame for their own plight – that the literate were not responsible for helping them understand. I understood where these people were coming from – the idea that speaking with someone who does not have the same level of literacy holds back the conversation, making it more of a lecture, than a discussion. I can definitely feel that. But at the same time, I find myself wondering where this idea of secularizing one’s self into cliques of like-minded literacy has come from. I can understand not wanting to feel obligated to teach everyone about a topic of interest, but I can also see the benefits of not just shutting down a conversation once one feels like nothing will be gained from it.

I’m the sort of person who gains knowledge by asking questions, or at least I prefer to, rather than just attempting to glean it from internet sources and the occasional book I remember to pick up from the library. I like to discuss – it’s how I learned my basic understandings of Marxism, it’s how I learned to be socio-politically understanding, it’s how I learn to check my privilege. I certainly don’t think anyone is obligated to teach me about these topics, but I struggle with understanding this idea that one can only gain understanding from speaking with like-minded people.

Hirsch advocates for a national standard of core education, and I agree, but I also feel that we should advocate for the individuality of education. I won’t begin to get into the ideas of what I feel should be the basic, core education requirements, but the extras, the additionals, that make us into the individuals that we are – those are just as important.

I promise, this is (mostly) tying together in my head.

When we present different knowledge to a topic, we change that topic. We offer viewpoints that others might not have, we present concepts in a different light. It’s like approaching a piece of literature from different schools of critical thought, bringing different aspects of it to the forefront. So while we might, initially, not seem culturally literate, might seem like a waste of time to speak to because we come from a different mind, a different education, or even from an education not as complete as someone else’s, I feel that an effort should still be made to communicate. Even if one feels that it is a waste of time, a change could be made, in providing more cultural education to someone we speak to, by helping another understand a concept that they don’t know – they, in turn, could help one understand it in a way one might not have considered.

Let people ask questions. Engage. Ask questions of your own. That is how cultural literacy is gained.