Education mapping: I've found the red X !

Did you ever stand and stare at those mall diagrams on the lit boards, looking for the red X labeled, "you are here?" Ever feel that slightly dizzy disorientation that comes from realizing you're facing about 90 degrees off what you thought you were? Mall maps are some pretty simple ones, though. As long as the thing is oriented in the same direction you're facing when you're standing there, those aren't too wacky-headed to read.

(But the questions always do tend to pop into my head - questions like, "Why do they split department stores into two annoying separate places? And exactly who is 'Westfield,' anyway? Why does he suddenly own all the 'shopping towns' and why are they all the same?")

Mall maps are a tool for finding the store I want so that I can buy the thing I want and get the hell outa Dallas. Or Renton. Or Clackamas. Or Vancouver. Or wherever else I happen to be where there's too much smell of food court, far too many teenybopper hairdo's and voices talking on cell phones, and where the walls in the mall are, like, rilly rilly tall ... chah ...

In general, I love maps. When I was a kid, we had one like this one (found in a games museum in Waterloo), and I loved it. I should have used it a little more intentionally for learning all the states and capitals in the fifth grade. Somehow, that was a very hard task for me, and I suspect it's because I was memorizing names for things that had no faces. The puzzle would have given me some faces. (Notice that New Mexico is missing? Maybe they just took out that piece so that the viewer could see the information under it. My puzzle didn't have that information. Very cool, say I. Parents everywhere should have puzzles of the states and continents. I wonder if there's one for European countries.)

Maps breathe out possibility and the romance of the unknown. They entice imagination. Or, they should, anyway. Somehow, the map assignments I had to do in school were some of the most mind-numbingly, panic-inducingly, what's-the-point-of-this-beggingly assignments I was ever commanded to do.

How odd. How, I wonder, did those teachers manage to kill the romance of maps? Do you suppose maps are a bit like music or art? If the student isn't allowed to form a genuine and personal attachment to her own creative thoughts and fancies, then it's a bit like pretending to love someone? Ugh.

I quite agree with Margaret Dashwood. The really lovely books of maps ought to be kept away from the greedy hands of dull witted heiresses - and all else who do not understand what they see. (And a library is a very good place to hide! The dull of sense never do think anyone would be in a library.)

But back to the subject at hand. Maps. My maps. Specifically, my MAP, my LAC plan, and my INT plan. Gibb'rish, i'n't it?

Not to me! Not anymore! After a very long day, with the hours slipping by until my stomach reminded me of meal times, I have finally found where X marks my spot. I may even have conquered my hostility toward making maps for school.

See, at Marylhurst, there is one constant drum beat that the student cannot escape. In every class, for nearly every assignment, the school asks the student to own it. Own your education. Own your learning. Name your goals, say if you meet them or if you don't and why and how you believe that happened. Explain yourself. Explain yourself in relation to: your own experience, your own expectations, and all the learning and expectations of all the academics who have gone before you in your chosen field. It's yours. Your education belongs to you. At Marylhurst, they have the keys to the doors, and the doors are labeled, but the students are no more shepherded to the "right" doors than they are given spelling tests each Friday.

The students at Marylhurst have to draw their own maps, and then place their own bright red X's in their own landscapes. You can use a stencil if you want to - for the X, I mean. Or draw it with a marker, or paint it with oil paints, or glue and glitter if that's your bent. But the map is yours, and so is your place on it. Oh. And one more thing. This map of yours has to make sense to other people.

Marylhurst Map #1: It's your EDP - your Educational Degree Plan. (The links are to tutorials on the Marylhurst website.)

In the olden days, I would've called the EDP something else, but I don't remember what that was. A transcript, maybe? An incomplete transcript?

Anyway, the EDP is the list of stuff you have to take to get your degree, and then there's a column for whether or not you've taken it. This is the one map you get given to you at Marylhurst. It's generated through your declared degree, your credits earned so far, and the requirements for what you say you're doing. But there's a catch. It's only in a rare case that the actual courses will be listed on a brand spanking new EDP. Instead, you get a list of "outcomes" you have to fulfill, and you have to figure out for yourself how you want to do that. (It's yours. This education belongs to you.)

The outcomes are determined in two categories: your major, and the LAC - the Liberal Arts Core, the unifying and grounding element central to Marylhurst's mission and identity. In the olden days, a liberal arts degree included history, math, language, etc. Now all of those specific things are gathered into categories. (Am I the only one who didn't know this?)

Marylhurst Map #2: I must find courses that have outcomes in Arts & Ideas, Human Community, Life and Learning Skills, and Natural World.

Marylhurst Map #3: And how does one keep track of these outcomes? On one's Marylhurst MAP, of course! The Marylhurst Academic Portfolio. Name the course's outcome category, tell what you learned in it, and write the ubiquitous Marylhurst "reflection" regarding the course's efficacy in meeting the outcome's goal, and get feedback from advisors. (It's yours. This education belongs to you. You draw your own map, but someone is checking to make sure it's a map that leads somewhere when you're done.)

Marylhurst Map #3: Yesterday, I spent the entire day doing the other part. The requirements for an Interdisciplinary Degree. And now there's a twist. I have to write my own Outcomes. I have to declare my own intentions - draw my own map. Interdisciplinary Studies require that the student both design and justify the degree. It is not a double major - it's a threading together of at least two academic disciplines into one tapestry, the the tapestry has to make sense.

After all of this, the cherry on the top of the sundae is this: I've been writing for Prior Learning Assessment credits. These are very structured essays which are meant to prove academic learning which has occurred within non-academic life experience. Those credits have to have someplace to go. They need to fit either into the Liberal Arts Core (such as the essays I did for Public Speaking and Effective Listening), or into my major (I am not putting any of my prior learning into that category), or they must go into the Electives pile (and that's where the Library Procedures essay went.)

It has taken me two full years of going to school to make a map I want to follow. I've tried versions of other maps, but none of them went where I want to go. As of the end of the day yesterday, I have done it at last. This is my education. It belongs to me. I will be am earning an interdisciplinary degree called "Composing the Human Experience," which is a liberal arts degree with concentrations in Writing and Human Studies.

I am here.

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