Differences Noted

I think the major different of high school compared to university has finally dawned on me.

I mean, apart from the lifestyle – I mean the public lifestyle. Life at home is still the same. I’m still being treated like an 8-year-old who can’t make decisions for herself when it suits my mom’s needs…but that’s another rant – which is obviously different, like the blatant smoking and drinking around campus. Apart from that, the academic side of university is also finally showing itself.

It might have been obvious to Science and Biomed students from the get go, because their level of work is quickly stepping up (I cannot say for sure, not having done the subjects, but the speed at which high school chemistry traveled would indubitably be snail-speed compared to what university would be going). But for myself, an Arts student, the first few weeks of university hasn’t really been that different.

Sure, I don’t have to do maths or Chinese anymore, and each subject is getting more specialized and, to a certain degree, globalized (as in, each subject really only talks about the scope of said subject, and more about global issues rather than Australian issues) but really it just felt like a slightly more intense elective subject at high school.

But when my essays started hitting, I found things different.

In high school, you are more or less told what to do, how to do it, and then whoever can copy that formula the best while not appearing to have copied that formula gets an A. You might think you have more choice in VCE, what with the 3 different topics you can write about on the SAME book, or the “freedom” you have to “express yourself” in the “Whose Reality?” part of the exam. But, not really. Again, you’re more or less told what the expected outcome is, and you reach for that.

In uni, it’s just that one step scarier. First of all, you’re not REALLY told what is expected of you. You get a few samples of the genre/s that you’re probably trying to emulate – note, emulate, not copy – and these aren’t even past student examples, these are real life examples. You get the description of what the assignment is, for example “30 – 40 lines of poetry, roughly equivalent to a 1000 word essay”. Then they give you 4 weeks of random poetry to read, poets coming in to tell you how they stumbled across poetry, and then bam! your poems are due next week.

Poetry isn’t so hard to understand how to write, really. I mean, write, not write well. You can write anything and you can say it’s poetry, and no one can really dispute you, because it is poetry, just crappy poetry.

But my 2nd Creative Writing assignment had me stumped; a creative non-fiction.

I know what it is; I’ve read the Hiroshima example, and it was fantastic. But what topic can I write about? To be able to creatively write about a non-fictional topic, you’d have to have a respectable amount of knowledge about it. To get a respectable amount of knowledge, you’d have to research – and researching, then transferring this knowledge creatively, will take a lot longer than the time given for this assignment. So of course you’d have to write about something you already know.

That’s all good if you already knew shitloads about, say, Roal Dahl, or whatever. But I don’t! So a weekend was spent desperately trying to think of what to write. And that was the most frustrating part; I know I have the skills, I just don’t have a medium to show it. It would be good if in tutes we were given a list of possible topics, but we weren’t, and that’s how uni rolls.

In the end, I chose to write about music, and how music is experienced differently by different people.

But that’s just Creative Writing. Then we have Professional Writing, which is easier in some senses, and harder in some. I got my result for my first assignment – the magazine profile – back. I thought I’d done well – not fantastic, but well. I’d stuck to the conventions of my chosen genre of magazines – but the result said that, if I don’t draft this assignment for my end of semester folio, I’d only get a 60% mark. It would have been okay if I knew where I went wrong, but I’m not quite sure. I suppose that’s the difference – now you have to go ask the tutor why, and they’ll probably not answer you properly.

You know, I also noticed that I use the hyphen a lot more now. It gets annoying.

For my other two subjects, Cinema Studies and Intro to Media and Comm, I have 2 research projects’ due date coming up. After today (I’m going out today, which I will write about tomorrow, probably) I’m going to have to start doing the research for those two. Cinema Studies has me researching cinematic monsters, and Intro to M+C has me working with Annie and Christy for something which none of us has started so I guess it’ll be a bit of a last minute pull.

So things are definitely different in university now. I’m having fun, don’t get me wrong, because these things are my forte, and I actually enjoy them. But it is noticeably harder and more stressful to get that optimum mark.

Oh my god, I’m still mark-driven.

Alex.

What’s left?

That was a pun. “What’s left” was my insanely punny way of saying “what’s wrong?”

I won’t be able to reproduce the arguments exactly, or at all, really. And I hope Bee’s okay with my posting of it here.

On the train ride home today, with Fel and Bee, Bee started a discussion about the Saudi Arabians stoning women to death for a certain reason within their society. I think it was as a sort of punishment for committing a crime but I really can’t remember.

Bee put to us that we really shouldn’t (or rather, not “shouldn’t” but that it doesn’t really achieve anything if we) decide and see whether it is “right” or “wrong” for them to do this. Their society and culture does not view it as “wrong” and we only see it as such because we were brought up to see it that way.

My basic argument had been that it is wrong and we can say that it is wrong even without understanding fully their culture because every human has a intrinsic right to live, and to take away that right (or the “arbitrary deprivation of their lives”) is intrinsically wrong.

Bee countered (along with Fel) that it is not actually our “right” to live. “Rights” were¬† a convention set up by society. Sure, we have the “will” to live, but in certain situations that will to live does not amount to anything significant.

(This, by the way, is a horrendously abridged version of the debate we had, and in the wrong chronological order as well.)

Thus, by convention, we believe that the stoning of these women are “wrong”. Are they actually “wrong”? And what is “wrong”? By saying that such acts are wrong, it does not do anything to help or stop it from happening, and really “it’s just them complaining” (in the slightly paraphrased words of Bianca herself).

I then put to her that, “Yes, it is just complaining. But by complaining you are at least giving that slight possibility of something BEING done, whereas if you don’t complain nothing will be done and that’s that. It’s like a kid complaining to his mom about being hit by his brother. Complaining about it MIGHT get the mom to tell the brother off, or the brother to stop, but not complaining about it will just make him keep going, or make the situation worse.”

That stopped Bianca for while, but we’d also gone on to another topic.

Are humans intrinsically evil?

I’d put that, yes, humans are intrinsically evil. Take for example the Stanford Experiment. When given the power and the authority, all humans will inevitably start relishing in the power, and abusing it and whomever their power grants them command over.

Fel had argued that while humans may have evil parts in them, intrinsically, it is also true that there are purely good parts in everyone. Absolutely everyone. Bianca agreed, saying that even Hitler had good parts in him, because despite what his actions really were, to him they were the “right thing” (and here is that term again) and his acting upon these beliefs show he is a good person (was that your point, Bianca?)

The discussion then petered out at that point. No one “won” per se but I think Bianca had the slight upper hand in the end, regarding the Saudi Arabian argument.

What is it that you believe? Were those actions wrong? Were those actions justified by the cultural differences? Is society to blame? Is there actually no way of determining whether those actions are right because, in the end, there is no such thing as “right”?

Alex.

P.S. I’m not going to be patronizing, just helpful. If by chance anyone who read this wasn’t sure what “intrinsically” actually means:

Princeton: belonging to a thing by its very nature; “form was treated as something intrinsic, as the very essence of the thing”- John Dewey

So sort of like saying “water is intrinsically wet”. Sort of.