Financing educations one witty rhetoric at a time

29Jan08

In light of scholarship season, I thought I’d share one of my favorite vignettes of scholarly goodness. This was my submission for UO General Scholarships back in 2006. Feel free to copy it – simply be advised that every time you plagiarize, another robot learns how to lie.

American Humanities: a room full of the who’s who of the junior class, a daily struggle to survive, and the single most memorable course I have ever taken.

As any liberal arts aficionado knows, the Humanities consist mainly of historical and literary elements, meaning that our days of American Humanities were filled with a slew of American greats from George Washington to Washington Irving. The magic began every morning bright and early as we shuffled into the only classroom in the school large enough to fit sixty of the best and brightest the class of 2005 had to offer. Our stout, motherly literature instructor would always be waiting for us, studiously working away at her immaculately organized desk and glancing up to give each student a dutiful morning grin as he or she walked through the door. Two minutes after the bell rang to begin class, our history instructor would slip into the room, his arms filled with the information he intended to cram into our heads that day. Sliding the pile onto his desk, he would snatch the first overhead sheet off the top of the stack and click the machine on as he slammed it down on the overhead projector. “The Civil War,” he would proclaim, or whatever today’s patriotic topic happened to be. Soon after, our lit instructor would quietly waft across the room and hand him a cup of tea.

So the days began, one after another, the knowledge of the American ages sneaking unabashedly into our tiny brains and settling in to make a home for itself.
But, this was only the beginning.
Homework was a nightly treat: any and all homework questions had to be analyzed from every angle—political, economic, and social. Anything less failed to paint an accurate picture of the information.

This was in addition to the horror of group projects in which one was unable to choose their own group; imagine creating an entire poster, nay, a presentation, relying on the talents and work ethic of people one has never even talked to.

You want to hear about Manifest Destiny? How about the fate of my grade?

Then there were the pop quizzes—also known as pop-a-blood-vessel quizzes—that served as a constant reminder of how little information one really digests when trying to read history and finish a pre-calculus assignment simultaneously.

Of course, we can’t forget the endless nights we spent glued to the Sparknotes website struggling to grasp why eyes served as thematic in The Great Gatsby or how Huckleberry Finn fit into the social structure of the backwoods South in the 1800’s.

After what seemed a pedagogical eternity, spring came, and with it came the Advanced Placement test. Three weeks of preparation flew by in a flurry of textbooks, practice tests, notes, worksheets, and constant reassurance. We leaned on each other during study groups, on our teachers before and after school, and on our desks at night when the fatigue threatened to win over our weary, Reagan administration-cluttered minds.

When the Day of Reckoning arrived, we entered the library bursting with knowledge, eager to spill our endless supply of historical data onto our test forms. Three long hours later, we departed in a state of cathartic bliss, purged of our duty to American history forever.
Or so we thought. The methods and skills I learned in American Humanities have stuck with me, for better or worse.

Politically, the course enriched my knowledge of the world around me and its inner workings. While I may not know which state Senator Robert Kennedy represents, I will forever know the function of a Senator. The years of Andrew Jackson’s presidency may elude me, but I will never forget the scandal of his “Kitchen Cabinet” and would-be mistress.

Economically, it has increased my cultural and scholarly value considerably, endowing me with the resources I needed to make myself an asset to any learning institution.

Socially, it brought me closer to my classmates and my culture, not to mention introduced me to two of the most eclectic educators I encountered in my twelve years in the public school system.

Junior year is notorious for its hardships and long nights; but when I look back on my sixteenth year of life, I remember the thrill of a correct answer, the rush of a perfectly executed presentation, and the laughter that filled the room every time our history teacher did a Happy Jig. These are the elements that make up a quality educational experience to last a lifetime.

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