Sucks to know things

If education has ever helped me in understanding anything, it's that knowing things is a strong disadvantage. Whever I'm stuck writing a paper, whether the length be 500 words, or sometimes 2000 words, I find it the whole footnote system to often be completely ridiculous. I'm stuck having to work harder to provide sources to previously aquired knowledge. How is that any way to learn?

I find myself at the biggest disadvantage. I can't sound smart or else I'll have to somehow find out where I got my information from. And besides, isn't the point of these institutions filling up our minds with knowledge so we don't have to go book hunting everytime a question surfaces?

I lost a lot of motivation when it came to papers in Cegep. Often times, I felt like a simple overlook of my previously aquired knowledge was already good enough. Rare were the occasions where I learned something when doing an assignment.

What happens with anecdotes though? If I had a diary, would I need to reference that? If somebody told me a good story, do I need to reference him? I'm confused about these laws on plagiarsm sometimes. I feel the military way of referencing information to be quite irrelevant sometimes. So what if you weren't precise enough as to what page, paragraph and phrase you used to help you? Isn't the book and author enough? Why would a page number bother anyone? Whoever read your paper wants to know your findings, if he/she has to filter through fluff they'll stop reading.


At 1/12/05 11:33 AM, Blogger Portelance said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It all ends up coming down to an issue of trust and arrogance, however. I think the education system is built on a foundation that we know nothing and that every bit of information in a class will be new, acquired knowledge. Of course, if you have ANY interests whatsoever in something, then clearly you might have acquired, as you say, a good knowledge of a specific topic. If I choose to write an essay on a topic, it's often because this is a topic that I'm passionate about, that interests me, and that I already know a good deal about. It's a question of vocalizing things which I already enjoy, and possibly getting to understand it better through a bit of research or through structure.

The second aspect is arrogance. Teachers refuse to believe that you can be on the same level as them on a particular topic. There is also this hypocrisy that we are no intelligent enough to be the primary sources of information. Well, more often than not, I have in fact arrived at certain conclusions or understandings of the world based on my own knowledge, but there is this need for so-called "scholarly proof" from peer-reviewed journals or whatever is the flavour of the week.

It's really sad, but I think the system advantages those who are dipshits and who are willing to study their asses off (like most asians when it comes to social sciences....face it!). Those who already have good knowledge of a wide range of topics are disadvantaged because we are not supposed to have this knowledge, we are supposed to learn this in an autocratic manner, dictated by ministerial objectives and flow of concepts.

The last thing which this affects is motivation, I believe. Isn't it funny how (and I know this often happens to me), I take a course because I have already developed an interest in the topic and want to go more in-depth. Often times, I end up getting very bored because it's not moving quick enough, or I can't move at my own pace. We are stuck in these impersonal teaching mechanisms which I do believe punish those who are quicker, in many ways. It's a waste of my fucking time.

Next semester I'm taking two film courses, one on post-WW2 Polish cinema and the other on Italian cinema beginning with anti-fascist neo-realist movements. I already know a good amount about these topics, but I'm hoping to go far more in depth than I have in my personal time. The only thing I fear now is that I will end up shooting myself in the foot because, writing an essay on film, I will be discussing things from my own knowledge of the topic, but this would be looked at strangely as some sly form of plagiarism. "You can't know that! You can't have come to these conclusions! You're just a peon..."

At 3/12/05 1:41 PM, Anonymous Meldon said...

I find that footnotes are essential, and that we need to have them just to keep you on your toes about what you say in a paper. If you have solid refrences to your facts, than they can not be rubuked unless the refrenced author's facts are also rebuked. It makes you point stronger and also allows you to possibly go deeper in you knowledge of any one thing. Sometimes you might refrence an article you find, and decide to read more about the subject, outside of your assignment. Footnotes are required by teachers to ensure we do not cheat and plagiarise, since we can only use a small amout of the orginating text. We also seem to forget that all that editing the profs make us to allows our text to be more readeable in the end and also makes our opinions clear and concise.

Although you might think you are being forced to refrence previously aquired information, and being forced to waste more time on finiding the original source to this information, you might also discover that your interpretation of the facts were erroneus (did i spell that right?) or unclear.

If you forget that a teacher is trying to tell you something and think about it for a moment to realise that you are in fact doing a good thing for yourself, maybe you might agree with my opinion.

At 3/12/05 11:46 PM, Blogger Portelance said...

Hmmm well I think that you've been indoctrinated into beleiving that footnotes are good for anti-plagiarism tactics. I am willing to bet that almost all teachers don't bother looking up the footnotes at all, but rather look at how you have cited. In fact, as far as plagiarism goes, there are softwares that will detect this now for teachers anyway, cross-referencing assignments with databases of online content and such. This is mostly used in university, though.

As far as referencing previously acknowledged information, I think you should re-read my post. I was arguing that it is because of the arrogance of teachers that this causes problems. If I were to write an essay on Stanley Kubrick or Ingmar Bergman for a cinema class, as an example, I have sort of become a primary source of information as good as any other. I can almost tell you when Kubrick would take a shit. Now some "scholar" who would write a book on the topic, a biography of sorts, would not reference their work, and might know as much on the topic (I would hope) as I do. No doubt they have collected this information through countless sources through the years, but this becomes unimportant once you have amassed the knowledge. It depends, of course. If you are attempting to write a position piece, it's normal that you probably wouldn't need to use sources (unless you're a moron). However, if you're writing a historical perspective on a debate of some kind (say on media coverage of the Vietnam war), there would be differing views on this topic, and so it then becomes important to cite sources.

Another example. I wrote a piece of classical film narrative in Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 a few years ago. Who the fuck am I supposed to cite on this? I wrote it based on my own conclusions through watching the film numerous times and my knowledge of the cinematic language. Alot of teachers wouldn't believe that you could fully understand all these concepts.


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