Friday, December 19, 2008

Everything counts in large amounts

Today's xkcd comic:

That set me off wondering, what was most influential or valuable in my high school days? Being enrolled in two philosophy courses this semester, I've lately found myself thinking about an art teacher who caught me reading How the Mind Works and how what he said was so far off the mark: I'm definitely not more the philosophy type than the scientist type. If someone who knew me quite well at the time could miss that badly, I wonder how far off the curriculum was? What did I do that really counted during my college career?

Books that counted
Principia Discordia by Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, Zenarchy also by Kerry Thornley, and T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism by Peter Lamborn Wilson writing as Hakim Bey. Oddly enough, these were all books that I only found out about and acquired due to their distribution on the fledgling world wide web. I can't decide which was more important, but all three influenced me politically and religiously by means of presenting something simple and completely outside the box of 90s revivalism.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al. Made me appreciate both comics and fantasy again and convinced me that they could be written and analyzed at a more theoretical level than I had been exposed to.

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. I may not have grown up to be an evolutionary psychologist or even a bona fide cognitive scientist, but it's largely due to this book (and subsequently reading its prequel, The Language Instinct) that I became aware of linguistics.

Classes that counted
Latin: I was a B/C/D English student my first two years of high school. Then I took a semester of Latin and shot back up into the A's where I'd spent my elementry and middle school years. Through making syntactic and semantic arguments explicit, Latin made me interested in the structure of language and convinced me that something was wrong with our language arts education program. I would go on to study English education mostly as a result of this class and reading How the Mind Works.

Music Theory: I didn't go on to study music formally, but that class taught me the vocabulary (literal and musical) behind all the things I had only implicitly known before.

Activities that counted
Jazz band. Playing jazz showed me the horizons of music and kept me from being satisfied with three chord rock (even if I did and still like it).

Reading. Seriously. So many high school students stop reading for fun. I learned a lot that way about dozens of subjects that wouldn't be presented to me in class until college (if then).

Not doing drugs. Yeah, ok, it's no more of an activity than not-stamp-collecting is, but class issues aside, it's amazing the difference in outcomes between those students who do and don't.

Records that counted
I think I'll save this for a future post and go into more detail.

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