In Defense of Classical Studies

The Spartans would know exactly how to shut Rush up!

I have never liked Rush Limbaugh: he’s an ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic embarrassment of conservatives everywhere. Usually I don’t give him the time of day, but yesterday I read something on his website that infuriated me to no end. It’s called “Deciphering the Sad-Sack Story of a Classical Studies Scholar.”

In the transcript he insults a Wall Street Protester who as a Classical Studies graduate feels hopeless in this recession. He asserts that her degree is useless and calls her “Miss Brain-dead.” He doesn’t even seem to know what Classical Studies entails:

What the hell is Classical Studies?  What classics are studied?  Or, is it learning how to study in a classical way?  Or is it learning how to study in a classy as opposed to unclassy way?

If you aren’t pissed yet, keep reading:

But most of these majors are useless, such as black women studies, women’s studies, whatever studies.

So according to Rush, not only are Greek and Latin scholars worthless, but also anyone who doesn’t worship white male Republicans like himself. I don’t know which majors are acceptable to him, but if you don’t pick one he likes, apparently you’re a socialist.

Since Rush has obviously the intellectual capacity of a dung beetle, I’ll spell it out for him. Because as a Classical Studies minor who spent two years studying Latin and ancient Greek/Roman literature, I’d like to clarify that not only am I highly employable, I have skills the average college graduate could use:

Classical Studies makes you a better reader, writer, and thinker. I have an excellent vocabulary, because I understand the Latin etymologies of English words. This is essential in my job, because I teach high school students how to make educated guesses when they’re faced with an SAT word they don’t know. The analytic skills needed to translate Latin, or any language for that matter, is similar to solving a math problem: you fit together the words one step at a time and the result is achieving a higher level of knowledge–a level Rush can’t even comprehend, let alone reach.

Classical Studies is not dead. If anyone tells me Latin is a dead language one more time, I’m going to go Catullus on their ass. Latin lives in all the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc.) and English to a great extent. The ancient Greeks and Romans created Western civilization as we know it: architecture, art, politics, education, philosophy, the list goes on and on. Next time Rush gushes over an American monument like the White House or references “the Founding Fathers” or “American democracy,” he should thank Pericles and Augustus instead of Reagan and Bush.

Classical Studies is what you make it. Every college grad is struggling right now. I know engineers who can’t get jobs, so don’t make the excuse that it’s all your fault if you picked a major in the humanities or social sciences. We are all victims of this economy, but Rush is too rich to have any pity for the middle class man or woman. That being said, Classical Studies scholars can either further their education to become professors or apply their knowledge to other fields. As a future journalist and novelist, my expertise in grammar and oration will greatly benefit my story-telling. Ever read a little book called Harry Potter? In case you didn’t know, most character names and spells are Latin.

To anyone who’s interested in the Classics, don’t despair. Learning Latin was the best decision I made in college, and now I know a language usually reserved for the most educated and elite people of all time. You can get a job no matter what you study, as long as market your skills accordingly. I’m optimistic that my minor will actually help me stand out in the job market, but I’m also determined enough to make my dream career come true.

As for Rush, I only have one thing to say to you: Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo!

Back to School! My Top 5 Fictional Teachers

I truly believe that teachers are some of the most under-appreciated people on the planet. My mom has taught third-grade for over 25 years, and her life is not all summer vacations and field trips. Teachers are essentially in charge of children’s lives for most of the day. School is more than just learning reading and math; it also includes lessons in imagination, critical thinking, passion, and goodwill. If you’re a decent human being, you should be thanking all your teachers.

Thus, in honor of my last “first day of school” tomorrow, I wanted to celebrate the fictional teachers that mentored me, as well as their own students:

Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus: Who could forget this favorite teacher from childhood? I loved her wacky sense of humor, her pet lizard, and-of course-her crazy costumes that always matched the lesson of the day. I practically watched every episode, but my favorite books included On the Ocean Floor and In the Time of Dinosaurs. They were chock-full of info that all ages could understand. Learning was never so much fun!

Megan Smith from How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls: In this book by Zoey Dean (2007), Megan gets paid big bucks to offer SAT prep to 17-year-old twin heiresses Rose and Sage Baker. But big bucks also means big problems, since the girls are more interested in boys and partying than hitting the books. Megan learns to connect on their level, and in return, Rose and Sage starting giving her more respect–and even advice of their own. The story was adapted into a CW show called “Privileged,” which lasted only one season because it wasn’t very good. Pick up this light-hearted read instead.

Anna Taggert from Schooled: Written by Anisha Lakhani (2008), it’s also about a teacher trying to reach kids of the uber-rich. At first, Anna is thirsty to be accepted by her students, to be seen as cool and fashionable. She gets obsessed with designer clothes with her new income, but when she realizes that nobody’s learning anything, she gets down to business. A great book that makes you realize that teachers aren’t perfect, but it also brings about pertinent questions about education.

The Hogwarts professors from Harry Potter: Some were boring, others were Voldemort’s cronies in disguise, but most were teachers every student deserves. From quirky Trelawney to hard-ass McGonagall to empathetic Lupin, witches and wizards at Hogwarts had the very best. Even Snape, despite making Harry and friends miserable in Potions class, was a kind-hearted person who fought to save the world from evil. However, I think everyone would agree that the “best professor” award goes to Dumbledore, the wisest of them all. Who couldn’t learn from his excellent quotes, such as, “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” You knew that he would be affecting people’s lives long after he left the earth.

Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World:” Ok, I cheated! I know this entry doesn’t come from a book, but I couldn’t resist. Who doesn’t love this mustached, sweater-vest-wearing, teacher/next-door-neighbor? I mean, he followed Cory and gang from middle school to high school to college! That’s one super-duper credential!

Any fictional teachers I forgot? Feel free to share your favorites, and happy back-to-school!!!

In Defense of Grad School

Fresno State Bulldogs

GO BULLDOGS!!! (Image via Wikipedia)

Usually around this time of year, media outlets are spouting off their pessimistic rants about university life: the cost of tuition and textbooks, the rising amount of student debt, the lack of actual learning, and the prevalence of young adult depression and suicide. All the buzz-kill stories make many people, and especially students like me, wonder–then why go to college at all???

Journalists, however, agree that pursuing a bachelor’s is worthwhile. I mean, they needed one to get their jobs. But those same journalists are often the ones dissing those who are working toward advanced degrees. You’ll have no trouble finding voices on the net telling you that you’re a “really smart sucker” if you go to grad school, including Slate, Geek O System, even a blog titled “100 Reasons Not to Go to Grad School.”

I have ten days left until I begin my last year of my Master’s program at Fresno State in the Mass Communication and Journalism department. And I’d just like to say that grad school is not the plague, and as long as you do your research and have realistic expectations, it’s not nearly as bad as everyone says it is.

Thus, I wanted to relay some of the most popular arguments against grad school and offer my defense:

  1. Grad school takes a long time. Well, it depends whether you just want a Master’s or want to continue to get a PhD. Not every grad student plans on becoming a professor; some are using advanced degrees to reach a higher salary in their current field, others just need extra education in their industry. Yes, the average age of PhD recipients is 35, but I received my BA from UCSC in 3 years and will have my MA after 2 more years. I’ll be 22 when I’m done–beating out most undergrads! So I’m not wasting valuable time away from the workforce; in fact, I’m one degree ahead of my peers of the same age.
  2. Grad school is hard work. This argument is just stupid. Anything of value requires hard work. But if you start early and pick the right program, it’s manageable. I’m young enough to not have to worry about a house, husband, and kids. I have a part-time job as a tutor, but I don’t overwork myself. I can still go out and have fun. With my 30 unit program, I take 6-9 units a semester, which could include independent studies and undergrad electives–a lot less work than I had getting my bachelor’s.
  3. Grad school is slave labor. I’m not a work-horse to the education system, and although many programs make grad students work as teaching assistants, mine doesn’t. I don’t need teaching experience to graduate, which works out nicely since I’m not getting a PhD afterwards. In fact, only one of my colleagues wants to become a professor; the rest of us want to work as journalists or PR specialists. Even the graduation requirements in my department have become easier. The only two options before were a thesis or project (generally 50 pages of research over the course of two semesters), but now we can opt to take a comprehensive exam instead. It’ll probably be the hardest test I’ve ever taken (besides the GRE to get into grad school!), but it’ll be over in a few hours rather than in several months.
  4. Grad school is expensive. This, of course, depends on which university you attend and whether you apply for financial aid. My family was paying over $18,000 a year after financial aid at UCSC, but Fresno State only costs about $7,500 annually for full-time grad students. I spend a little extra for books and parking permits, but even with the CSU system raising tuition higher and higher every year, it’s still a walk in the park compared to what I was used to. Not to mention, I’m one of those “boomerang students,” who returned home after graduation, so instead of paying almost a grand every month to live with two other roommates, I live rent-free with my parents where I get my old room back. Oh! I forgot the best part! IT’S CALLED THE FAFSA. DO IT. Grad students don’t have to supply their parents’ income on the FAFSA like undergrads do, and since my earnings from my part-time job put me way below the poverty line, my tuition is FREE. Yes, there are grad students who are paying six figures at some Ivy League and who will graduate up to their eyeballs in debt. But I’m proof that it doesn’t have to be that way.
So if you’re scared about possibly going to grad school, don’t be. Just do your homework, and budget accordingly. I’ve had a fabulous time at Fresno State, and I can’t wait to see my professors and classmates again. I don’t regret one second of my educational journey, and I’m hopeful that it will all pay off into a career I love. Don’t let the grouches get you down!