I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.”
― Dr. Seuss,
Me: So, Dawn, I appreciate your letting me interview you. As you know, I was a journalism major in undergrad so it’s always fun for me to go back to my roots and conduct interviews and write up human interest stories. Of course, I’ll be presenting this one just as a straight interview.
Dawn: It’s my pleasure to sit down and talk with you. I understand we’re going to talk about our college days.
Me: Yes, that’s where I’d like to start. I’d like to begin after undergrad and focus on graduate school where you studied adult and community education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and then the University of Oklahoma. Why did you choose that major?
Dawn: Well, initially I thought I was going to teach adults to read and write and to prepare for the GED. That’s what I did through my master’s degree; I certified to teach adult basic education which is K-8. Then as I began my Ph.D. studies I was still focusing on literacy education. I did some special topics studies on such things as Laubach.
Me: Will you tell our readers who Laubach is and for what he’s world renown?
Dawn: Dr. Frank C. Laubach founded Laubach Literacy International to address the world-wide problem of illiteracy. He created a specific method to teach adults how to read and write, starting with the shapes and sounds of the letters of the alphabet. I took classes outside my graduate studies to learn the Laubach method and then presented a seminar to the other Kellogg fellows on how to teach it and the history of it, etc.
Me: Sounds interesting.
Dawn: It was to me. But, I soon found out that my major professor wasn’t at all interested in it. I had to switch topics within the first year of my program or I wasn’t going to survive. He told me one day while walking down the sidewalk “maybe you are in the wrong program.”
Me: Wow! That’s kind of harsh.
Dawn: Yes, particularly since I had picked up everything I owned and moved to Norman, Oklahoma specifically for the program.
Me: How’d you react?
Dawn: Well, I assured him I was in the right program. I mean, what was I going to do? My research fellowship and my education were tied to this program. I knew there were lots of ways I could go with the program and many directions I could take my interest, so I just punted. I started focusing more on education for senior adults because it was an interest of his. There were still tons of things I could learn from him and the other professors in the department.
“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”
― Dr. Seuss,
Me: Did that make you angry or disappoint you that you had to give up your real interest?
Dawn: No, not at all. By then I had learned that graduate school was not really about the topic you chose for this study or that research. It was about learning to think in new and different ways.
Me: Can you give me an example?
Dawn: Sure. Here’s an example, not in the way graduate students learn to think, but in the way people in general learn to think. Pablo Freire wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first in Portuguese in 1968; and then it was translated in English in 1970. Freire believed that the powerless could be frightened of freedom. He writes, “Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. According to Freire, freedom will be the result of praxis — informed action — when a balance between theory and practice is achieved.”
Once freedom is achieved, once the oppressed understand what it is to be free, they can’t go back to the state of oppression. Once they are educated, a society can’t take that away from them.
That’s the way I see it with graduate students. Once you learn to think in new, deeper ways, once you learn to analyze statistics, do research, think more broadly, no one can take that away from you. You just are a better student, a better thinker, a better reader, a better writer, a better citizen, etc.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss,
Me: Oh, that’s quite interesting. Well, we’re running out of space for this interview. Thanks for spending time with me. Maybe we’ll get together again later. We’ll talk more about our graduate school experiences.
Dawn: Ok, thanks. I’d like that.