I left my ecology class this morning feeling some really good vibes. I mean really good vibes. The kind of endorphins that develop in your body when a sense of inspiration hits you. I felt positive and inspired and completely motivated. I think this is proof that I thrive off of artistic, creative, and intellectual interaction with others, despite my introversion. So clearly I need to seek that out more often.
Despite having a mid term exam during the first half of the class, I am completely elated (this is so unusual for me). The truth is, my ecology class is different from my other classes. This is largely to do with the amazing group of about ten people who are enrolled in the class. It’s also largely to do with my professor, Dr. Julia Emberley, and the way that she conducts the course. She is completely aware of the importance of art and creativity, not only as a therapeutic means of communication, but she realizes the need for it within academics. The success of this class has taught me that creativity needs to be incorporated into academics, not only out of necessity, but because the intellectual stimulation that is often derived from academic work is inherently creative, and in order to tap into this creativity (creativity that produces passion) there needs to be a variety of accepted mediums for producing academic work. I have learned more in this class than any of my other classes because a lot of the assignments are designed in an untraditional way.
For example, my class was assigned a mapping exercise in which we had to map out our identities in whatever way we wanted. Our maps could consist of anything. Some people created body maps, I created a map out of pressed flowers, and others created maps that utilized technology such as sound. We then had the opportunity to casually present our maps to the class and discuss their meaning, as well, we had to write a 1000 word piece that explained the concept of our maps. The result was two full classes of listening, learning, deep intellectual discussion and intellectual epiphanies. I am not even exaggerating.
The traditional form of academia (writing, writing, multiple choice, produce, repeat and memorize) does not allow for the kind of creativity and stimulation that my ecology class has provided me with. And the fact that academia today is still largely based on the same traditional testing is incredibly frustrating. (I get that some certifications and disciplines require traditional testing, but I think that universities need to be open to other styles of testing. One monolithic approach to academia is not very inclusive.)
My class is studying a lot of Indigenous women’s literature. This literature discusses different ways of knowing that clash with the traditionally white, Western and normative ways of knowing. For example, a lot of the texts emphasize the need for a spiritual connection to the world (in the study of ecology), a concept that a lot of mainstream scientists throw away, as objectivity is often valued over care or connection to living things (for example, animal testing). I’m not saying that objectivity is a very negative thing, but in order to study other (equally valuable) ways of knowing, the academic world needs to accept different ways of studying and teaching. Does that make sense?
Anyways, that’s my little rant for today and it comes from a place of optimism and happiness. I am currently truly relaxed and content. Academia can be healing and therapeutic, it doesn’t always have to be stressful and frustrating. I am learning so so much.