Everyday Life, Fiction

Episode 15 – Higher Education

I tell Denny that my story doesn’t really have a plot. “But it has a theme,” I tell him with satisfaction.

When I was in college I had trouble coming up with a theme for my papers. You have to write your theme out at the beginning. I thought, By golly, anybody who reads this can see it has a theme. Why should I have to spell it out for them?There’s no intrigue in that.

But my profs wanted me to state it right up front, in the form of a question or a statement. Denny tried to help me understand the importance of a thesis statement and demonstrated what it should sound like. But I figured if you did that then who would bother with the rest of the paper? It was a total spoiler.

Denny and I finished our degrees later in life. The trouble with going to college late in life is that you think you know something. Not that it was much different when I was younger, I admit. One prof told our class of freshmen—I was twenty—that if we came up with what we considered an original insight we shouldn’t get too excited. We were assured that we were not the first ones to make the discovery. I, for one, needed this admonition because I had already come up with a few unique insights I was eager to share.

In grade school, when I first learned about molecules, we were told that we couldn’t see them. For years I kept to myself the fact that I could see molecules. When the sun shone in the window I could see them floating in the room. I couldn’t tell anyone, of course, because they wouldn’t believe me. I learned later that these were only dust particles. I’m glad I didn’t make that discovery too early because it was kind of special to think only I could see molecules.

In college, Denny could rattle off a paper in one evening, in a couple of hours. It was concise and organized and clear. He knew how to pull out the main points and leave out the rest. He also knew that if he used the Courier font he could significantly reduce the number of words he needed to write. He was never called on it.

I accumulated huge masses of information and then spent days wading through it, sorting, discarding, rearranging. My reward was a couple of grade points difference. In the end, at graduation, I got the gold cord and Denny got the blue one. That’s it.

Denny is a bit skeptical of higher education. After college I kept upgrading but Denny was finished when he graduated. Now all he studies is what he is particularly interested in, things like shoes and cell phones.

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