Significant Stuff

December 14, 2010

Today, the Wisconsin Humanities Council Grant application goes out the door.  Ron worked on it for about 2 weeks, so the least I can do is make the 28 copies required and overnight them to Madison.

He’s the grant application narrative king.  The appropriate tone and content of a good grant app is so academic that he’s a natural.  Me, I have no patience for the process.  Wherefores and Wheareas’s make me want to grab the nearest Uzi and start blasting holes in concrete bunker walls.  Ron – he used to be a college prof, so he’s got that gene.  Me – I didn’t even graduate from college.  My jeans are blue and a couple inches too short to be considered fashionable.

And yet, I find myself surrounded by academic achievers.  And not “just” the 4-year kind (tongue firmly in cheek) but the 5, 6 and 8 year kind.  Lots of letters behind names.

A high school teacher once explained the purpose of higher education to me and as I travel life’s paths, I am more and more convinced that he was spot on.  According to Mr. Whatshisname, the purpose of higher education is to create the ability to hold a conversation.  It’s so that you can effectively communicate with other human beings.

Some will argue that the purpose of a higher education is to enable you to discover even more insights, depths and applications of your particular discipline.  I would argue that that is not the end result you are striving for when pursuing your research.  It’s so that you can communicate your findings and persuade others to adopt your conclusions.


This conversation may be in the form of a paper or article, but the purpose of that paper or article is to connect.  To present your thoughts and engage in a dialogue.


For some, the purpose of higher education may be to create a short-cut to credibility.  It’s a well-earned short-cut and may not cut out much time initially.  Instead of taking on a task and improving and proving your abilities via outcomes, you study.  Then, 4 years later, you present yourself as a person with a certain level of knowledge alongside the person who has been pursuing the task for 4 years while you were going to school.  Guess what?  You’re probably on an even knowledge vs. experience playing field.  For the moment.  Moving forward, the person with the degree will probably pull ahead.

You know why?  Because you’ve been taught to have a conversation.  You’ve been taught to present your ideas in a logical fashion and to engage.


An under-appreciated skill that’s taken me 48 years to achieve a modicum of ability.


Susan Scot Fry

Update… And we all need a good editor.


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