I just watched the movie Accepted. The premise is that several students are rejected from traditional colleges. They proceed to form South Harmon Institute of Technology, what some might think of as a fake college. Its authenticity is challenged, and the students founding the school go before the board of eduction to make their case for accreditation. This reminds me of my own thoughts on education.
In watching the movie, I am reminded of the words of a high school classmate. He spoke on the National Honor Society’s principle of scholarship during his speech during my NHS induction:
Benjamin Franklin, an undoubtedly scholarly man, once wrote,Genius without education is like silver in the mine.And to complement, a quote from a contemporary,Education only exists to the extent of self-education.Meaning, you can only be taught what you teach yourself. Yes, school has been instruction, it has been discipline, correction. Your teachers have provided examples of character, the location of resources, and friendship. But nowhere along this line did a teacher educate you. Your teachers can only do their best to provide a broad set of resources to make self-education as simple as possible. Note that I do not say easy, painless, or unproblematic. Self-education is a challenge. Yet, you, the present and future leaders of this school, are called to the challenge.
When I heard those words, I definitely agreed. I’ve never thought schooling to be about grades or teachers or classrooms. Schooling has been about an environment of resources to learn. It may be that an environment of classrooms and tests and grades is what works for the majority of students, but catering only to the majority discriminates against the minority.
I am also reminded of the movie Patch Adams. The difference with Patch Adams is that Patch Adams is not a fiction. Patch Adams is a man that exists that started a non-traditional hospital in the form of the Gesundheit Institute. In a very paralleling manor, the legitimacy of South Harmon Institute of Technology was called into question just as the legitimacy of the Gesundheit Institute was questioned. If the innovations of the Gesundheit Institute can be legitimized, I believe that one day there can be a South Harmon Institute of Technology.
I have always loved learning. I have always loved finding problems to solve and skills to acquire. If you ask anybody that knows me, they would attest to my knowledge of many subjects and that not only is that knowledge broad, it is also deep.
When it came time for me to choose a college, I had a difficult choice. I did not want a large college. I also wanted to be challenged. I looked into two schools. I looked into the University of Indianapolis as well as Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. At University of Indianapolis, the head of the computer science department at that time told me I wouldn’t learn anything there. That left me with Rose-Hulman. My time at Rose-Hulman has been long and bumpy. I have attended Rose-Hulman for six years now and have one term remaining before I meet the requirements of the Bachelor of Science degree.
My grades have not been the greatest. I have been on academic probation multiple times. I have technically been kicked out for academic reasons three times now. How and why am I still there though? With academic dismissal, there is an opportunity to appear before an admissions and standing committee at my school. That, I must say, is an intense experience. Had I never been a boy scout and became an Eagle Scout, I don’t believe I would have handled the situation as well as I did. Appearing before the committee involves entering a room with approximately twelve faculty members. Some are familiar from classes, but many are unfamiliar. There is no particular interrogation in my experience, and that makes the experience even more uncomfortable in some ways. It amounts to being one basic question: “What happened?”. So I explain. Like South Harmon Institute of Technology, there is learning that exist outside of the classroom and grades. I explain how I might get interested in a topic and find myself diving deep into that topic on my own neglecting other courses. I explain how appearing before the committee previous times is itself a learning experience. I am better prepared for presentations in front of large groups such as making a case to venture capitalists to invest in an idea. That’s the how of being at Rose-Hulman still. The why is perhaps even more simple: I have always approached school in a way similar to South Harmon Institute of Technology. Rose-Hulman has invested in my own personal SHIT. For that I’m thankful and grateful. To be readmitted three times at Rose-Hulman is unheard of to my knowledge. My parents have invested in my SHIT for at least two years beyond what they intended. I am thankful for that too.
South Harmon Institute of Technology has an approach of learning what you want. I’ve always wanted to learn many things and that’s hard to do. There are competing interests that must be managed, and managing those interests is perhaps what should be meant when told to get your SHIT together. Take leadership in your direction. And when SHIT gets tough, take a step back, flush the SHIT with a nice laxative, clean up the mess, and keep on going.
Thanks for putting up with my SHIT.