What You Know

Where I went to grad school, you took a series of qualification exams after your first year to demonstrate your readiness for Ph. D. work. The tests were on all four of the discipline’s quadrants: cultural anthropology, Physical anthropology, linguistics, and archeology. At the minimum, it was expected that you should be able to teach an introductory course in each quadrant.
The tests spanned an entire week during which you ate, slept and, dreamed anthropology. My recurrent dream that week was sitting down to write my essays in the traditional little blue books, but my writing disappeared as soon as I finished.
It was not the tests or the classes that guided much of the following years. I left grad school before I completed my doctorate. Despite teaching as an adjunct professor, I knew that an academic career would not be for me. I worked in the practice of applied anthropology.
I prepared curriculum, researched topics for government, nonprofits, and for-profit corporations. I had an incredible time studying traditional crafts.
I lost track of how many public programs I designed, developed, and implemented. Throughout it all, it wasn’t the book learning or the lectures that influenced me. It was the pervasive influence of four professors. One taught me the essentials of fieldwork and applied research, another to teach—the third how to adopt the book learning to practice. And the last taught me his dry humor, perhaps the most valuable gift of all.
As we would say at the end of a research paper – in conclusion – it’s not what you know, but how you use it that counts and much of that came from people, not books. As John Wooden said: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

8 Replies to “What You Know”

  1. That last line really made me laugh. When you know it all!! Ha. I’ve found the more I know, the more questions I have. But of course, I have a very limited basic and fractured education. Sometimes education tells you what you obviously do not want to do with your life as you discovered. I agree, a sense of humor is most important and valued thing we can have. I think those tests would have given me nightmares too.

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    1. I had a recurrent dream about grad school until just a few years ago. I was back to finish up my Ph.D, but found that I had to start all over from the beginning. Nice to hear from you by the way. Hope everything is OK – except of course the lockdown!

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      1. It’s very warm here and my AC is fried. Waiting for repair people who can’t seem to fix it and I’m a mindless puddle in the floor trying to stay cool and sane. 😉 No success so far. 🙂

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      2. I hope they can fix it soon as well. It’s been almost a month but with insurance, things progress S L O W L Y. If they can’t fix it, I get a new one. 😉 If I haven’t melted first. 😉

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      3. My sister has an insurance plan like that. She waited three weeks for a water heater. She told me that all the parts come from China, and there are no parts. Everything is on backorder.

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      4. My point exactly. I’m reconsidering the insurance after they replace the heat pump. I do not want to wait that long on a water heater. I’ll probably see about replacing it soon. I think it’s 14 years old at least. So is the heat pump. My son talked me into the policy. ;( But I wouldn’t have the money to replace the heat pump. They are EXPENSIVE! It was 90 today, 93 tomorrow and 92 Tues. ;(

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