Fly on the Wall—Classy and Wise

It's All in the Minds

The individuation of education need not be a lonely or isolating experience.  Distance learning need not imply distance from reality.  We get to write our own themes, develop our own mantras, and largely learn at our own pace.  AU is like life itself that way.

If you reduce life to your annual tax forms or to a mindfulness and gratitude checklist, or to a list of goals accomplished or forsaken, there’s a lot shared between academic and regular life.  Perhaps it’s ordinary schooling, in the pressure cooker of a college campus, that’s out of whack with reality.  In any case, assumptions about narrative scaffolds, proper behavior, pleasure for others, and the ability to get along in assorted awkward instances aren’t so relevant to our Athabasca success as they are in the fish market and shark pen of normal university.

With only one tutor per course to impress, and few or no fellow students to wrangle over the details with while encountering the universal vicissitudes of culture and nature and all that makes old films like To Sir With Love seem trite, we need not feel contrite if at times we suspect that our social skills are neither evolving nor improving.

Likely these abilities of discourse and plain old getting along with others are growing greatly.  Critical thinking, after all, is about not just taking the first version of reality that comes our way.  And there’s nothing more conversationally pleasurable, gratifying, interesting, and just plain positive than having a conversation with one or many fellow travellers, students or otherwise.

When you apply our learning to that all-too pedantic real world of common sense and core beliefs and this is what you do notions we find that AU has helped birth a whole new you.  To consider one fun example, note how a hitherto unproblematic assertion about the meaning and intent of one of Sappho’s poems might go.  Sappho, who Plato called the eighth wonder of the world, did not write poetry as though she were concerned about trigger warnings.  Her tales of female-female adoration may have meant many things but they certainly suggested timeless affairs of the heart.  If we dust off the stale idea that academia is boring and dweebish and unrelated to social interaction, we might likewise realize that learning is part of what being passionate in life is all about too.

Anne Pippin Burnett reminds readers, however, that when we focus on the raw impulses of love or classroom misbehaviour, we must not at once discount creativity and the ability to utilize rules of rhetoric and form.  Pupils, like kids of all ages and politicians and poets too, say the darndest things.  You don’t have to have been a political junkie outside of education since Preston Manning and Audrey Mclaughlin’s days to realize that what can seem silly or sly, shameful, or snide can also be really effective in the sphere of spoken and written words.  And sometimes being a pleasure to have around is just plain boring.

Burnett notes that a double standard often applies to the study of classical poetry such as that created and sung by the hero named Sappho: “any hint of conventional artistry is distasteful to a critic whose ideal lyric is the naif expression of a violent emotion” such as lust, love, or grief when a beloved is married off into the sunset (Pippin, 2).

Likewise, in-class students of all ages are implored to be themselves and speak their truth even while rules of engagement and discussion and general good behaviour are enforced with strict discipline.  It’s no wonder that Bob Dylan once sang about “mongrel dogs who teach” (Dylan, online).

Perhaps being a pleasure to have in class is a key reason why we chose AU in the first place; perhaps, even, disdain for the pressure cookers of socialization that embody in-person education and underpins the very notional binary of school smart and life smart.  But, then, have you ever noticed how when someone derides books smarts they shortly move on to complaining about their own lives? Perhaps passion for an audience is what matters most of all and those who command attention, like teachers, are not always primed to share the stage for those with less pleasurable, on topic, or mutually appropriate things to add to the discussion.

Burnett, A.P.  (1983).  Three Archaic Poets.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Dylan, B.  (1964).  ‘My Back Pages’.  Retrieved from