25 October 2006

I wish...

I had more free time. Have you ever said that? I know I have. On this board, actually.

Today (once again in my Brit Lit class), we took a break from 17th century lit to discuss what it is, exactly, that a good education should consist of. We talked about class sizes, and about how we shouldn't have one specific major but be able to focus on lots of different things and see the connections, and lots of other things that make me want to go to Oxford (though I never thought I'd say that). Then someone mentioned the importance of free time, and we got into a fairly interesting discussion that I thought I'd write about here for my topic of the day.

First of all-America is a work-a-holic nation. There's a phrase we use here that says we are "working like dogs". Well, in all of Europe, they say "working like an American". We are work obsessed. Most of our education is geared towards getting a job. Going to school isn't a luxury any more-it's almost a necessity in American society if you intend to make money. And there is some merit to that-but think about this:

In Europe, (England in particular, for the point of my discussion), workers are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours/drive a certain amount of kilometers/whatever their job requires. It's limited. And if a manager thinks they are working too hard, they can send them home. They have required vacation days. American's are always wishing for free time but, honestly-what do we do with our free time? Most of us are so work obsessed that when we get free time we don't know what to do with it. Rather than take time off from work to learn something, or go to a museum, or experience life in some way, we sit around at home and wait for ...whatever we're waiting for.

There was a study done in Europe of couples that were filing for divorce a while ago. These were couples who weren't just thinking about divorce, they were set on it. They had filed the papers and were ready to call it quits when the governments of these countries kind of pooled together in a study of divorcing couples. They offered to pay them if they would help with an experiment for six months. The first third of the people were put through traditional marriage counseling-and about 20% decided not to get divorced. Another third was given money to cover any financial struggles they were having, and a little more than 20% of that group decided not to go through with the divorce. The last third-and this is crazy- were paid to spend time together for six months. They had to be with each other on paid leave of work and everything else for six months. 96% of those couples decided not to get divorced. Just because of time.

So now I've started thinking-I'm always complaining that I don't have enough time in the day. I spend all day trying to get through class, and work, and rehearsal, and homework, and I talk about how there aren't enough hours in the day, and my roommates do it too, but what if we're spending more time doing homework, for example (I can't exactly cut back on work hours or class hours), because we don't take time to do something to enrich our minds away from schoolwork. Something besides sleeping (though that can also help).

I've started a list. I have books I want to read, things I want to do, movies I want to see, poems I'd like to write-I even (get this, Liz), have considered going online and finding a bunch of math problems to solve just for the sake of doing something with my time that can be more beneficial to me in the long run.

I'll get back to you on how it goes-but I'll bet something good comes of it. Because education shouldn't be divided into subjects that never touch each other. Education should be about finding connections between things you never thought possible. Subjects that aren't divided into water-tight bulkheads (see Dorothy Sayers' article The Lost Tools of Learning, available online), but should be like a river, moving forwards and mixing together into something that feeds the land around it.

5 comments:

Ben Crowder said...

Hear, hear! In my own experience, the times where I've done just that -- spent my free time wisely in building my talents and finding new ones, and just learning about the world around me -- have been some of the most memorable moments in my life. When I look back on my life, I'm not going to remember work and class as much as I'll remember (fondly) the things I learned in my free time. And that's even though work and school take up far much more of my time!

"Education should be about finding connections between things you never thought possible." Yes! You know, it seems like the tide is turning in the business world -- people are starting to realize how important creativity is (and creativity is all about finding and forging connections). As Daniel Pink says, MFA is the new MBA.

And the Sayers article has been a favorite of mine for a while. She was friends with C.S. Lewis and the other Inklings, incidentally. Good stuff. :)

Joni said...

I know who Dorothy is :P I'm an inkling at heart, for sure. And good for you, actually doing something with your time. Another thing we talked about is how Americans just don't know how to learn on their own any more. They don't know how to look up books and know which resources are good, or how to make connections. It's sad.

Marisa VanSkiver said...

Please Joni, don't do math! I mean, you can't be that desperate for things to do, can you? Math is the source of all evil....yuck!

Liz Muir said...

I must disagree. Math is beautiful!

The Girl in the Other Room said...

Math? I can add! Pumpkin + 3.14 = Pumpkin Pie! Ha Ha Ha! Almost as good as Liz's pirate letter joke ...