Our long-awaited conversation begins!

So we’re really going to do this!

That’s great — I’ve been wanting to have this written “conversation” with you for a long time. There are plenty of really wonderful things about the fact that you’re my son. For sure, one of the best is how much I get to learn from you. How much we get to learn from each other. And, of course, writing helps both of us sharpen our ideas — hopefully figure out what we’re really thinking, and whether it actually makes any sense.

This morning, my writing hero Ta-Nehisi Coates said:

I wish to return to one of the original features of blogging—the documentation of public thinking. I would suggest that more writers, more academics, and more journalists do this, and do so honestly. I have come to believe that arguing with the self is as important as arguing with the broader world.

I think that’s right. I’d go further: it doesn’t always have to be an argument! A conversation. Kind of like a running two-person essay. I hope it’ll be about (as Doug Adams famously put it), life, the universe and everything. Maybe if we can get some momentum going, we’ll really have something here.

So I have a question for you. You’re halfway through college. How does it compare to what you expected? Where are you compared to where you expected to be? What’s surprised you the most?

I guess that’s three questions.

Let me blather on a bit before I turn over the mike. I remember, when you started college, I was sending you personalized podcasts full of unsolicited advice.

“Your personal high school commencement address.” (I’ve spared you the audio link; just a PDF.)

“How will you know if you’re taking full advantage of your college experience?” (Still looking for the transcript for this one.)

“What should you study?” (Economics. Philosophy. Physics. Biology. Anthropology. Linguistics. Global History. Comparative Religion. Art. Music…) I’m still beating the same drums, aren’t I? I’m not exactly your friends’ Dads, am I? Or your Mom, for that matter. (What a pain in the butt I was. But there are many ways to be a pain in the butt, some worse than others, I guess. I could be freaking out about how you’re going to make a living 100% of the time, instead of only 50%.)

I knew those podcasts were full of clichés and high-minded pomposities when I wrote ’em. But isn’t it the human condition that parents think they’ve learned something along the way that’s important enough to share with their kids? Even if it’s only “what not to do”? <grin>

Between the ages of 18 and 58, you’d hope we’d learn something worth passing along <grin>.

Anyhow, I was listening to those MP3s again this morning, and I did say at least one thing I still really like:

I’m asking you to look at your education as a coherent whole, one that looks at the length and breadth of humanity, its past and its future, its quantities and its qualities, human beings and their societies from both the inside and the outside, humans at their worst and at their most noble. If you do that, I believe your education will help you figure out who you are, and what kind of life you want to lead.

Pretty ambitious, I guess that was. You’re halfway through, now, so you’ve still got roughly 20 courses to take. Maybe 10 or 12 of them will be tied up in finishing requirements and picking up at least a new minor. I do still hope you’ll think about what I said when you pick the rest of them. Because this is still the last time in your life that you’ll have a whole gigantic institution (backed by families, governments, and oodles of cash) all dedicated to helping you learn important things.)

But that’s enough hopes and lectures for now. What do you think? Feel free to start with my questions or head off in another direction if you so prefer <grin>… And of course feel free to ask back… perhaps not quite “ask me anything,” but close…

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: My hero, Deresiewicz, returns: What is college (and an education) for? | A Father and Son Converse...

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