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We all know school isn’t the only place we learn, but for certain kinds of learning many of us behave as though this is true.
Down a humanities social media rabbithole the other day I discovered staunch stances pro or con majoring in the humanities. It made me think the majority of us assume we can only learn the humanities in school, more specifically in undergrad.
We either pick a humanities-related major or not. Whatever we pick, our fate is sealed. If, say, we majored in business, we’re just out of luck. Never will we read or understand Tolstoy, Achebe, Marquez, nor Morrison. Sad times. Oh well. ¯\(ツ)/¯
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A slight majority of the social content down the humanities rabbithole was making fun of humanities majors because they can’t get jobs after college, however, I don’t want to take these posts in a career development direction. The debate about the employability of humanities majors v STEM majors is a robust one. I’d guess the data is out there and that it shows you can study whatever you want.
The thing is, I both want to go back to school and I don’t. There’re a lot of books I still want to read and a lot of topics I want to deep dive on. If I had not studied the humanities/liberal arts like I did, I might be more inclined towards a more formal degreed exploration of them. My undergrad was a unique experience focused on the liberal arts so that’s not for me, especially where I am in my life.
There are instead, learning experiences you can find that are going back to school without the degree. Continuing education programs, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and even the spread of cohort based courses (CBCs) are popular alternatives.
All of the above are high cost, demand lots of time, and are highly intensive/comprehensive options. I’m looking for options on the opposite side of the spectrum. However, all I find on that side of the spectrum are watered down book club-type experiences. I’ve had a rather consistent, and robust book club for years that provides a lot of the inspiration for what I write about here. I wouldn’t consider it watered down but when I talk to people about my book club many people are wowed as they compare it to their own book club experiences.
The stereotype of their sort of book club is friends gathering, drinking. Few have finished or even read the book. Conversation about the book flits about until it devolves into chit chat and general catching up. This is great and totally fine, but it is too cheap, demands too little time, and is almost the opposite of intensive/comprehensive. I’m looking for something in between.
Also what all of these lack is a bit of wow and a bit of romance. The most memorable classes I had in undergrad were in a 200 year old former governor of Maryland’s mansion on campus with even older majestic trees outside the windows to gaze off at. Once, when considering grad schools I explored Oxford’s campus, the OG of Harry Potteresque university-stereotype surroundings. I’m not saying that learning experiences steeped in this HPesque cliche is what I’m after or are even the ideal, but I am saying that the surroundings of where I’m learning matter to me. Context matters in the humanities. What can I say?
I don’t want to be in a MOOC. I don’t want to be in a classroom. Especially not the public classrooms I spent my childhood in. I’d prefer to be learning somewhere, for lack of a better term “nice.”
So what are my options? Assuming you can relate, what are your options?