On being a postgraduate
It is quite a while since I blogged here either about history or about M.E. I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis about the blog, since I couldn’t force myself to decide to focus on just one of those topics (as common sense might dictate); however, as I am now a postgraduate student, and my M.E. must necessarily impinge upon my studies I can perhaps leave that dilemma aside again.
There are many quotable sayings by Albert Einstein on education, many of which tend to the idea that education is not essentially about facts learned, but about adaptability, persistence and imagination – certainly a good thing for me, since my memory is a little bit of a problem and facts cannot be my strong point any more. The attributes listed would apply as much to obtaining the information itself (issues of energy and stamina) and finding ways to sort and remember key details, analyse it and write it coherently (cognitive issues), as to developing new approaches, but perhaps that very difficulty may serve my cause.
Perhaps Einstein’s point is that as art is born out of adversity, so intellectual advances do not come in a peaceful sequence but thrive on difference, opposition, struggle, revolution. Zero Anthropology argues that universities often foster a climate that kills creativity and independence of thought in graduate students in the social sciences.
The only independence shown is in trying to find some niche in the mass of literature where one’s project “fits,” so that the effort of reviewing literature itself inspires a conservative approach to contributing to what is already in place, the status quo. One day, some may apply for academic employment, and in secret hiring committees will meet to discuss whether the applicant is a good “fit” with the Department. They tell applicants what the Department wants, and applicants better suppress any independent streaks that could promise threatening new directions.
I’m not about to say that having M.E. is a blessing in disguise yet. Given that it’s so beyond the experience of many people that they refuse to believe that it exists, perhaps it is an indication of the foolishness of an attempt to do a higher degree, much less full time. I’m not going to comment on that just yet, except to say that success will require an endurance and ingenuity that Einstein would surely approve of.
But those are just a few thoughts on being a history postgraduate with M.E.; I hope to write some more specific posts soon.