These Are The Days

  • 10 February 2014, 06:31

It has been a chaotic period since my last post…before Christmas. Tumultuous even. In between the overseas family dramas of housing and teenage pregnancy, and the inconvenience of burst pipes and broken boilers at home (It never happens in the summer, does it?), I have managed to weather Dickensian moments, start the new semester slightly beaten, and once again attach myself to the keyboard.
In the midst of it all, I found an old friend. Old as in nearly 30 years have passed since we last connected. Late night phone calls (thank you Skype) have been long, entertaining, often deep, and stirred thoughts, analysis, and emotions that have escaped me for quite some time. I am always fascinated by the roads travelled in the course of a life, and the life of Tiffany – though sharing a few parallels- has been rather different than my own.
Several interesting topics arose in our late night chats; two of which I feel comfortable sharing, as they are quite applicable. As Tiffany, though even more travelled than myself, makes home in America, it was interesting to realise the contrasts between higher education abroad and here in Bonny Scotland. The ways in which we learn, and the skills that we develop, have always been of a high standard here. We have set the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment into the world, provided key figures in the Industrial Revolution, been the inventors of everyday necessities, and continue to break new ground in science, medicine, and engineering. In short, University (and learning) in Scotland brings out the best in devoted students, and with perseverance and motivation, these same students will make a mark upon the world.
But that does cancel out the validity of American universities. Brown, Harvard, Duke, and UNC (to name a few) have all provided exceptional and renowned alumni over the years. They continue to do so. Bulfinch, Emerson, Leon Cooper, Gene Roberts, and Kobilka have all rightfully earned a place in the annals of history. The list is as heavily populated as our own.
The main, outstanding, difference between the two educational systems lies in the cost. Here in Scotland, if you are indigenous (or fortunate to be a member of participating EU countries), it is not necessary to re-mortgage your home, pray for a scholarship, or be the product of privilege in order to get a degree. The opportunity is available to anyone that wants it badly enough, and the invitation is open to all social strata. Great thoughts and innovations do not remain within the sole grasp of the affluent upper bourgeoisie. Education in Scotland, though not exactly ‘free’, is certainly more accessible than across the pond. It should be.
The second topic during my late night chats with Tiffany was presented as a question: “Why History?” As you all know, I am currently reading History (reading being the operative word) and on the path to a desired PhD. I have never given much thought to the ‘why?’ beyond the fact that I really like it. It fascinates me. But the question asked made me stop and really consider what exactly the reasons for such a decision were.
My answer to you, Tiffany, is this:
I have spent my life taking things apart. The television, the stereo, the car… anything that I could lay my hands on and disassemble. In doing so, I would begin to understand its intricacies and machinations. I would figure out how, and why, the object worked in the ways that it did; how the pieces fit together.
Now, it’s possible that I am attempting a global deconstruction. I am driven by a desire to understand the world and why it is what it is. How did we arrive at our present state? What are the causes and effects? Why have some things been given precedence over others in a pursuit of ‘progress’?
How did we make, in many ways, such an imbalanced, devastating mess?
These are the answers I seek. That is why I choose to study History.
And while these answers may not provide solutions for the future, they will indeed offer understanding and, at the end of the day, something to write about.

Written by:

Mature undergrad studying History with Geography. Originally from Dundee, but have spent most of my life living in other countries. Love reading and writing, am a total sci-fi geek and comic book fan, and an amateur film buff that loves all genres of cinema. Trying to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but it's a work in progress...old habits die hard!

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