Wednesday, March 30, 2011

order and disorder

Today I’m feeling stupid. Part of this has to do with the changing of the seasons (which somehow always manages to turn me into this hyper-sensitive creature). The other part has to do with school.

Lately the words “maybe school isn’t for you” (said to me last fall) have been echoing in my head. In some ways, I know it’s true. University is the very epitome of order, structure, and obedience to authority. If you can’t follow rules, you really don’t belong there.

And therein lies the dilemma.

On the one hand, I want to read and learn and formulate ideas in a structured, orderly way. On the other hand, I don’t want to sacrifice the parts of me that are disorderly for the sake of succeeding in or gaining approval from a hierarchical system.

This struggle between order and disorder comes out most clearly in my essay writing. It’s simple, really:

P1. I don’t like structure.

P2. Essays are all about structure.

C. Chaos ensues.

Seriously, though. Essays are all about rules, and following rules. There are rules around how you write and organize an introduction, a thesis, a main argument, and a conclusion. There are rules for how you structure sentences and paragraphs. (Every paragraph must be a kind of “mini-essay” a TA told me recently.) There are even more rules derived from the MLA or APA, telling you exactly where to put your page number, how wide your margins have to be, and so on, and so forth.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out of school for too long, but it seems to me that the essay is just another form of control, and school itself is just another tool to train people how to perpetuate the status quo. The most interesting part for me is that we pay (or our parents do) exorbitant amounts of money in order to subject ourselves to this system. Control through consensus.

Isn’t that a kind of hegemony?

Of course, this could just be a justification for why school makes me feel stupid. :)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kristen, it's been a long time but I stumbled across this blog post and found it to be incredibly meaningful. I am currently writing a masters thesis on this very notion of perpetuating the status quo through educational practice. In writing alone I am reinforcing the very power structures that I am writing against. It's good to know I'm not the only one who has been caught by this double bind.
    Anyways I hope all is well with you. Good luck with your paper!

    Laura Lane

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