Friday, October 9, 2009

wax on wax off

[Editor’s note. This post is an annoying insight into how my brain works. I’m constantly going off on tangents in an effort to go back and forth between two sides of a hypothetical argument attempting to fill in holes in logic. If I’m bi-polar, at least I’m a somewhat open-minded schizo.

“What luck for rulers that men don’t think.” – Adolf Hitler]

“It's nice when somebody tells you about their uncle. Especially when they start out telling you about their father's farm and then all of a sudden get more interested in their uncle. I mean it's dirty to keep yelling 'Digression!' at him when he's all nice and excited. I don't know. It's hard to explain… What I mean is, lots of time you don't know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn't interest you most. I mean you can't help it sometimes. What I think is, you're supposed to leave somebody alone if he's at least being interesting and he's getting all excited about something. I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice.” – Holden Caulfield]

I remember when I couldn’t type worth crap as a kid, and I couldn’t think of a reason why I would need to type fast. Now I can’t imagine a world where it takes me an hour to draft an email with my two index fingers.

I remember a 6th grade typing class that first forced me to become familiar with where all the letters were on a keyboard. A, S, D, F, J, K, L,;. I wonder if you have similar memories of wondering why the crap they weren’t in a logical order. Oh, I dunno’, maybe a, b, c, d, e, f and so forth. Just a thought.

How young and stupid I was.

Yet, at the same time, My steepest learning curve in typing didn’t come from typing class or the Mavis Beacon software my parents made us use at home for a while. I learned to type from typing emails to people I wanted to type emails. And chatting online with friends. The internet as we know it was brand new. This was fun.

I remember when the free AOL disks came in the mail. Our home internet connection was reliant on the free dial-up service that would periodically land in our mail box. (The literal, non-cyber kind. You’ve got (snail) mail!) AOL email and AOL instant messenger taught me to type. Even if it wasn’t – and still isn’t – with perfect form, it fit the function. All’s well that ends well.

Which gets me thinking about the general, life-serving principle behind this relatively simple life experience. (Insert Jaime’s groan here. She wonders why I insist on identifying and applying the “principle” behind everything I observe. I wonder too. It’s involuntary, and I’m seeking help in the form of more cerebral gelatinizing boob tube time.) We learn from real life application much quicker than from theory and rehearsal. Those who are thrown in the deep end either learn to swim or drown. (There are those who realize they can simply float and survive, but that’s an entirely different principle and a different post.)

I’m a married adult and my wife works in child care and childhood education. So many of my Jaime-groan-inducing-life-principle brainstorms lead to me think about how I would apply this life principle to helping raise a kid. Consider. I’ll let you brainstorm your own practical applications of this theory and end* with a question to spur more thought:

How often do we let theory and rehearsal suck up valuable life-living time that could otherwise serve as practical real life education and experience?

I can think of one solid counter-argument: those without a solid foundation of theory and best practices before jumping into application will almost inevitably make a habit out of doing things the wrong way. They will essentially be practicing mistakes, building inefficient techniques into their muscle memory or brain pathways, which is very difficult to correct. I sometimes cringe when I see how my 15 year old brother types, spells and chooses to express himself on facebook and email. These are the “kids these days” moments when I feel oldest.

Counter-counter argument: who are you to tell me that it’s wrong or that I need “correcting?” The established system is built upon its own assumption of superiority from nothing more than the fact that it’s own professors and evangelists agree and support that notion.

Which brings me back to the discussion of efficiency. If the theory and rehearsal are there to teach you first and foremost how to most efficiently execute superior results, that is hard to fight against. Leave it up to the renegade deep end swimmer to revolutionize the system when he stumbles upon a more efficient and more superior method. At that point will the university gather in the stadium to observe the new findings and hail their new dean.

And the cycle starts again.

I’ve gotten nowhere.

I graduated with my bachelor's degree in 6 semesters (ca. 3 years) in part because the university rewarded me for using my summers and time off to gain practicum and internship (aka “real world”) experience relating to my studies from the classrooms of south eastern Idaho, which is about as far from the real world as American higher education gets.

Here I am, three years after graduating, degree from the system in hand (or in a box somewhere in a closet, actually), three years into one of the most coveted and competitive jobs in my chosen field of study: advertising account management.

Maybe that’s the key. This is not a fight between black and white. The answer is in the beautiful grey. Be sure to insert a healthy amount of real world application fighting for your life in the deep end of the pool while you study the theory and principles of the masters that came before you. Just make sure you don’t wait too long to get a little wet. Like when the Ralph Machia was growing weary of all the slave-labor “training” until he deflected Mr. Miyagi’s blows in a spur of the moment practical application of all his seemingly useless fence painting, deck sanding and car waxing theory.

A,s,d,f,j,k,l,;, wax on, wax off. Study the masters and what they know, then get out there and imitate and innovate.

I think I’ve landed somewhere. Thanks for bearing with me.


*so much for being concise.

Posted via email from ericforsyth's posterous

1 comment:

Taylor said...

This reminds me a lot of some of the attitudes I get from my students. One of the classes I teach is Music Theory. Every semester I get some kid who tells me that studying music theory is a waste of time, or better yet, that it will get in the way of his own creativity.

As far as I can tell, no one's language skills worsened after studying grammar more diligently. I'll admit that there is a lot to music theory that is somewhat superfluous, but there's a lot to be gained from studying what the great musicians and composers of the past did to get their point across.

Often I hear stories (from my students) about some person they know who took a music theory class and it "ruined" their music. What is more likely is that taking the music theory class made them realize how horrible their music was all along!

Its funny that you use The Karate Kid scenes as examples. I just used those as examples the other day. I think that this approach is something that the Asian cultures appreciate more than we do.

I am not arguing against the importance of "on-the-job" learning, but just making a case for the theoretical...well, theoretical case, that is.