Stuff I Learned in Grad School: Part One

Things have been quiet in the Spartan Holiday offices of late. Production outputs are down even as demand for new blogs is skyrocketing. And by skyrocketing, I mean somebody mentioned that they were still waiting to read Spartan Holiday’s Insider’s Guide to Antarctica.

Well guess what, Demanding Public? Somebody else just started grad school and is burning the candle double time, reading scholarly papers night and day, day and night, so maybe all of you leisurely, indolent, brick-throwing blog readers should GET OFF MY BACK!!!

That outburst was intentional and meant to illustrate two points: 1) Grad school is stressful and can cause people to snap at the slimmest provocation. 2) Grad school is mentally taxing and can make you forget the second point of your outburst. 3) Social media research shows that angry outbursts receive more “likes” than posts that assume a neutral position.

Is my daughter pretending to be trapped in kitchen cupboards as a last ditch effort to get Mommy’s attention? This never happened before I started grad school.

So don’t worry, lathered-up readers, the Insider’s Secret Unlicensed Uncensored Guide to Antarctica is coming, but for the next few months you should expect a leaner, meaner, greener Spartan Holiday. (Less blogs means less chance of tree killers printing off the blogs…which calls to my attention that “blog” sounds an awful lot like “log.”)

Spoiler Alert: An Antarctic hut or lab or something.

You should also expect me to frequently list Things I Learned in Grad School. I can’t help it, it’s the budding, dewy-eyed educator in me. So let’s begin, keeping in mind that learning is not merely transmitted; it’s an exchange, the respectful co-creation of ideas. Please share your own rich stores of knowledge and experience below.

Things I Learned In Grad School

1) In First and Second Language Development within Cultural Contexts, I learned that some cultures teach babies to wield knives before they can even walk.This means that instead of overprotective Westerners having their baloney-handed, pin-cushion babies bat at mobiles, they could be training them to slice, dice and cut various items such as fruit, meat, rope or twigs–a useful skill! This is but one illustration of how human potential is limited and channeled by cultural expectations.


(A few of my friends argued that this Efe baby did not look all that “skillful” in his knife work, but that’s because they are interested in maintaining colonial power dynamics.)

2)  In my Intro to Linguistic Analysis class I learned the articles “a” and “the” are primarily used in information structure to convey and reflect whether or not we have addressed certain information before, or to designate identifiable (given) concepts versus unidentifiable concepts. We use the definite article (the) when the concept is identifiable or when a unique concept is intended. We use the indefinite article (a/an) when the concept is new and not identifiable. The fluent use of a/the displays an intricate unconscious system of shared conceptual categorization and remembered discourse.

I pretty much knew this before, but I could never have explained it at parties so succinctly.

Would you like *the* canape from *a* tray?? Oops, I mean *a* canapy from *the* tray.

3) In that same class I learned this joke: There’s a German guy and a French guy and a British guy arguing about whose language is the best.

German Guy: German is off course zee best language. It is zee language of logik and philosophy and wiz German you can communicate wiz great clarity and precision even zee most complex ideas.

French Guy: Aaaaah non! But French ees ze language of lurve! En Française you can capture all of ze subtleties of romance wees great flair wheech ees good for ze survival of ze species.

English Guy (after long contemplative pause): I see what you’re saying, and it’s all well and good, but…take a spoon: you Germans call a spoon a “löffel” and you French call it a “cuillière.” But we call it a “spoon” and when you really stop to think about it, isn’t that what it really is?

Oh man. It’s funny because it’s true! English just makes sense! (It’s also funny because it reinforces cultural stereotypes in a world where generalizations are becoming more and more compromised by multiculturalism)

spoon - goodSo as you can see, grad school is not just laborious, it’s also fascinating…and making me a more fascinating person at parties…and maybe more employable. For that I am grateful.

If I learn anything else, I’ll be sure to post it here either immediately, eventually, or never, depending on my workload.

Until then, fare-thee-well and start getting pumped for Back Stage Pass to Antarctica: The Truth Behind the Lies: Microbial Life in the Dry Valleys. (Don’t get too pumped, as I mentioned before, I’m pretty busy with grad school.)


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