Find Me at the Anthropology Moat

Today I attended a meeting with all the honors thesis students in my department. At least, that was what GCal called it. It might as well have been retitled, “Impostor¬†Syndrome: The Meeting.” Because seriously? My dominant thoughts upon leaving that meeting:

  1. Do I want to do this research? I don’t want to do this research. I signed up because of parental pressure!
  2. I can’t write anything this long. I can’t write. I have forgotten how to type and my fingers are numb, because I am an idiot. I bet they teach you how to type in SURE.*
  3. The IRB is going to read my sad application for approval, track me down while I’m trying to flintknap in the Anthropology moat**, and break my kneecaps with a bat.¬†I deserve this.

These meetings! Not reassuring! I left the one today resolved to quit writing my thesis and, I don’t know, go commit ritual seppuku. (Or just take eight credit hours this semester and call it good. But that would be sad.)

Continue reading

Decorating Back Home

I moved back home a little over six weeks ago. Since then, however, I’ve been feeling on edge. Because so much of my stuff is still in boxes until I move into my apartment next fall, it hardly feels like I actually live in my old room. It’s the sort of feeling I hate (and why I will probably never be a Paul Carr-style nomad). I really like having a space that I have control over. It’s part of why I’m that weird kid who reads Apartment Therapy even though I live in school housing.

So, last night, I finally figured out what about the arrangement was bugging me so much. I had no art on the walls. As anyone who’s seen my dorm can tell you, I pack it full of things: postcards, drawings, weird Chinese calendars from middle school, whatever. I have pretty minimal aesthetic sense when it comes to arranging things coherently, but I like pictures and compensate by just having a lot of them. My dorm art of choice has been sitting in a box since I moved back home. Last night I finally fished it out and–using tape and the excitingly-taboo push pins–hooked everything back up to my wall. Then I just kind of sat on my bed and looked at the art. It was the dweebiest thing ever, but I could just feel how much less stressed out I was. It’s awesome.

So, if you too are living at home, I highly recommend taping postcards to your wall. It’s an awesome way to distract yourself from the fact that you’re the sort of person who sits around and organizes paper into boxes on her wall at 11pm on a Friday. Plus: art!

I want to get it published.

Paper monsterNews Paper Origami Dragon Monster / epSos .de / CC BY 2.0

I’ve been talking a lot lately about essays. This is partly because, as of today, I am done with classes at Oxford College (woo! and also, wah!) and so I and my friends are writing lots and lots of term papers now (including mine on Facebook and death). But mostly, it’s because several of my friends have had some very similar interactions in the last few days. They go like this.

SANE PERSON: Done with my paper!

CRAZY CLASSMATE: How long is it?

SANE PERSON: Fifteen pages. You?

CRAZY PERSON: Oh, 35. I want to get it published.

This has happened with us on papers with 12-page limits, on papers with 20-page limits, and on papers with one-page limits. Someone-typically multiple someones–turns in a paper 10-20 pages longer than the maximum word limit assigned by the professor. This bothers my friends.

It’s offensive to begin with because, if nothing else, turning in final papers twice as long as requested indicates that students do not value a professor’s time. The professor presumably knows how long it takes her to grade 20 five-page papers, and so that is what she has budgeted. When one person (or five) turn in papers of 10 pages, then the professor is put in a bind. Plus, speaking from a purely self-interested standpoint, turning in papers which are longer than requested takes away time from every other student in the class, meaning that their papers (the ones that followed the requirements!) are likely to receive a less thorough evaluation than they might otherwise. It’s not that the people who turn in extra-long papers are bad people, but they are being inconsiderate. There needs to be a reassertion that maximum word limits are there for a reason, not just for shits and giggles. Grading takes time. Turning in unasked-for huge papers wastes that.

More worryingly, approaching papers in this way seems to indicate an underlying problem of a culture which values quantity over quality. Students are encouraged to do more: more clubs, more classes, more honors societies. Little attention is paid–by faculty and staff or by students–to doing better. At best, this leads to substandard work and clubs dominated by the same small group of people who are minimally invested–the same complaint that I’ve been making at HackCollege over the last few weeks. At worst, as Lena Chen has been discussing on her blog this week, it leads to a college culture which promotes mental illness and anxiety disorders. Colleges need to look at what they are doing as institutions to encourage this approach to learning.

Continue reading