Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I may be tired, but I hope I'm never too good to try

For the record, if there is one, I think that the purpose for an expensive education (and they're totally going to come take one of my kidneys when I graduate for what I owe in student loans) is to disseminate knowledge. This is also the charm of the intertubes.

I always got the impression, in my liberal arts degree, that the purpose for all that variety was to expose us to new ideas and to model for us a way of thinking and being that emphasized the ability to draw from many sources, both of which, in the traditional lib arts degree, make you a better person.

I like the idea, though it has problems (you can expose people to tons of information without changing their minds and the definition of being a better person will vary. A lot.) But I'd like to add something.

Over and over again, in my reading and thinking, I have run into the idea that the education, in and of itself, is supposed to make you a better citizen. For me, at least, this means a citizen who is invested in trying to make the society which they are a part of a better place. Which means, because mine is an arts degree, that I believe one of the ways I can do that is to share the information I have and be accessible, as a volunteer, to help people. For this reason, on and off, I've tutored for programs like America Reads, and have volunteered to go to schools and teach creative writing workshops, and have brought things like photos from time periods being covered in class or by whatever piece of poetry or fiction I'm working with and left them so that the class could use them for awhile. I have created lessons in English for the Spanish speakers I've worked with and tutored people sitting in the hall, just because they had a question. I've also volunteer judged writing contests. If I can manage it and I think someone needs it, I will try very hard to help them.

I tell you this because I think this is an essential part of being a force for good in a society. And because I'd like to suggest it to people. Make yourself accessible, especially if you have a body of knowledge which is exclusive (whether that's a kick ass knowledge of car mechanics, home repair, literature or however), to other people so that if they have a question, you can try to help them. I've found it deeply rewarding (also very tiring sometimes), and it's a small step that builds community. I'd like to think that maybe I was helpful. I want to make the world a better place.

Also, because I'm greedy, I've noticed that getting out and doing stuff has a beneficial effect on my writing and makes me have to think about what I'm doing and what I think I stand for.

On a lighter note, I speak almost no Spanish. I think I was more comic relief than anything else to the people I was trying to help learn English. But we were all stuck doing the same monotonous job for really bad pay, and it sucks to be the only one who doesn't know what's going on in a conversation. So, who knows? I may have just been a giggle, but I'd like to think I was helpful. And now I know words in Spanish I didn't when I started work there, a lot of which are quite handy and some of which are obscene. But also handy. My boss sucked and did not speak any Spanish.

No comments: