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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Friday, June 29 2001

Independent studies

Despite the emphasis here this week on the value of formal higher education, I'm also a firm believer in self-education and independent studies, which can be defined many different ways, all of which probably pertain. When in an earlier Jonal entry recalling Herman Sedloff, the founder and publisher of the Nanty Glo Journal until his retirement around 1965, as one of my early role models, I mentioned that, even though he almost "boasted" of never having read a whole book in his life, he was a very knowledgeable and well educated man. I don't know the particulars, but am guessing that, based on his youth when he started the Journal he was either totally self-educated in any post-secondary sense, or a genius who breezed through college in a year or two. I'm sure he was a "quick study" in a wide range of interests and pursuits, including business, community journalism, typesetting and printing, politics, and the stock market.

Thought nothing could give me more confidence in my journalistic abilities than UCLA's recognizing me as a Master of Arts in journalism, the approval of my mentor and first editor, Andy Rogalski, almost a decade earlier to promote me into his job when he resigned it, also gave me a big boost. In fact, that may have been incentive enough to keep me on the graduate studies path.

The college catalog description of the MA program in journalism describes it as meant especially for future journalism teachers and media owners. A lower degree program is considered adequate for those planning careers in reporting and editing in the literal (as opposed to administrative) sense.

So, armed by my M.A., I used it to press my options and teach media theory at Stanford University. Though I was there as a campus minister with no official faculty status, I was able to get the university to adopt 11 courses that I created and give full credit for them to the students who took them. Two examples of "self-educating" and independent studies also come into play in that, the pinnacle of my journalistic career. First is getting my master's thesis published as a journalism theory text that was used in colleges around the world (not implying anything like "most" colleges, but I did hear from faculty members using it from this country to Africa, Europe, and Asia). It was the first and, so far as I know, the only theory of mass communication ever published from a theistic (Christian, biblical) perspective.

Theoretically, I could have created that book as an independent project without doing a graduate program, so I offer it as exhibit A in evidence of how you can elevate your educational status without taking a degree. My closest friend here in San Jose, in fact, has done that in a more literal way. Though he stopped just short of finishing his college bachelor's degree, he has published three or four books in his profession that have raised his self-educated status, and his career, many notches over others in his field with equal "formal" education.

The other "independent study" in that experience was the development of the curriculum for the media courses I taught at Stanford. On the one hand, that process was probably fully as "educational" for me as the graduate degree program I took before it. Ironically, however, without the M.A. I doubt that I'd have attempted it and, if I had tried, I doubt that it would have succeeded without the "credential" that's all important in a setting like Stanford.

But the transferrable lesson learned here is that developing a course of study, or a course of action, can be self-educating. Most teachers will attest that they learn more in their classes than their students, so if you want to learn, try teaching.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Yard work

When Phil's power mower broke down, his wife Kristi kept dropping hints about getting it fixed before the grass got too tall, but the message wasn't sinking in, and Phil kept putting off the repairs. Finally, she thought of a clever way to make her point. When Phil arrived at home one day, he found her sitting in the grass, clipping it by hand with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. He watched silently for a few minutes, then went into the house.

Coming back in a few minutes, he handed her a toothbrush. "When you finish cutting the grass, you might as well sweep the sidewalks."

Sent by Mike Harrison

Five more to grow on

"One of the surprising privileges of intellectuals is that they are free to be scandalously asinine without harming their reputations." Eric Hoffer

"The only thing you get when you sacrifice competence for self-esteem is an idiot who feels good about himself." Casey Brooks

"If they ever made a movie about the Department of Motor Vehicle offices, it would be a remake of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.'" Anonymous (After standing in line for four hours)

"There is nothing practical about socialism. It doesn't work—except as a mechanism for totalitarians and authoritarians to maintain power under the guise of helping people." Joseph Farah

"From Benjamin Franklin to Mark Twain to H.L. Mencken, the healthy American response to a sacred cow has been—think hamburger! Now, you need the sacred cow's approval." Wendy McElroy


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