Goodbye, Pool! Back to School

Six days until my kids go back to school, but who’s counting. I love this back-to-school time—and not just because my daughters have been bickering for the last two weeks. I get geeked out about school supplies, planners, and generally anything with the word Crayola on it.

But it’s not just the supplies I adore. I love the season in general. For me, fall has always symbolized a fresh start. What happens to most people on January 1st happens to me in the fall. I think it goes back to own my college days and choosing my class schedule. The Fall Catalog! There was nothing as intriguing as the class listings: Jazz Appreciation, The History of Native Americans in Film, Women Writers. Selecting classes, planning my semester—it was like getting to decide all over again what I wanted to be when I grew up. That Greek Art and Archeology class? It could still pay off … if only I could think of a book series set in Greece.

Maybe that’s what I really liked: all the possibilities. By the time college arrives, it’s no longer about the blue or red binder. It’s about doing what you love for the rest of your life. Maybe I’m overstating it. Maybe that’s not what really happens (or only happens to a book lover who chooses English as her major).

I asked my humanities class about this subject last year. I’d read an article in the Washington Post (“Meet the Parents Who Won’t Let Their Children Study Literature”) that said parents are “encouraging” their children to pursue sensible degrees, such as business and health, and discouraging liberal arts degrees, such as English and History. Parents think graduates can get good jobs with pre-professional degrees, and I believe them. When my niece recently graduated with a nursing degree, she had no trouble finding a job on the neurology floor at the hospital. So I asked my students if they felt pressured to select one path over another, and overwhelmingly, they said no. Their parents supported their choices.

Even though I was teaching at a private university, and students at public universities might feel more pressure to choose practically, I was relieved to know my students felt empowered to make their own decisions. Of course college graduates want to obtain good jobs, and most will. It’s been proven that they will make more money in their lifetimes than non-graduates (unless they’re writers, and well, that’s another blog). But what hasn’t been measured, and perhaps can’t be measured, are the limitless possibilities.

And for me, the sense of possibility—that feeling I got when I looked at the Fall Catalog, that feeling I still get every fall? That’s priceless. Irreplaceable. And definitely worth the shiny new binder.


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