Sunday, March 27, 2011

Deep and Wide

I used to think that I wouldn’t mind being reincarnated as an academic. You know, I liked to imagine myself at Oxford, or some such place, teaching English to studious undergrads while pursuing the mysteries of the language in dusty libraries. However, the time I have spent around actual pursuers and perpetuators of higher education in these past couple of years has caused me to reconsider. It isn’t that I don’t admire these intelligent future PHDs, it is just that I think my educational abilities/interests differ.

To be clearer, I have determined that I like to learn wide, rather than deep. By the time a person is on the PHD path, she has gotten very narrow and specific in her studies. She may learn deeply about one very niche subject, but will no longer be introducing new areas of study. I think if I went back to school I would just like to get another bachelor’s degree—maybe in Spanish, Linguistics, Music, or…Basket Weaving.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I have always followed this philosophy in a way. I remember being so irritated after leaving High School that my university suggest I chose just one area of study. I even considered a liberal arts degree…but that just seemed like studying nothing rather than lots of things.

I have always just been kind of good at lots of things rather than very good at one or two. I kind of write, and play a little basketball. I do some singing and piano playing, and know some chords on the guitar. I know a little Spanish. I know a few things about politics. I can get down the black diamond ski slope…but I don’t necessarily make it look good. I’m a pretty accurate shot with a pistol. I can occasionally cook something pretty delicious. I have general knowledge of History, Art, and Classical Music. I am moderately versed in English Literature. I’ve read a bit on teaching and parenting. I know some ballet. The list goes on.

No one will ever call me an expert. I think I’m okay with this. If I were being very self-complimentary I would say I am a Renaissance (wo)Man. However, traditionally, the Renaissance Man, or Polymath, didn’t just dabble in many subjects, he was well-versed in them. I would tell you more about him…but that is all I know.

In the mean time I will content myself with the fact that I just learn wide rather than deep, and I’ll get along fine unless one of you people who really know all the facts about everything ask me to support the last claim I just made in our conversation. At that point I’ll change the subject to one of the many other things I’m interested in.