Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The 40-Year-Old Freshman?

ut-campus.jpgWhen I enrolled as a freshman at The University of Texas in the fall of 1988, I did so under protest. I didn't have any friends who cared about school, I didn't care about school, and I didn't care that I didn't care about school. The University called me a Presidental Scholar and an Undergraduate Fellow, but beneath the titles and the test scores I was a disaffected, angry young man.

I thought the idea teaching a bunch of eighteen-year-olds the theoretical underpinnings of the world was ridiculous. With little to no practical experience on which to hang the theory, how could they possibly exercise any critical judgement? They would have no intuitive feel for the topics they were being taught and would have to take it all on blind faith. Universities, I said, were more appropriate for people who had lived long enough to truly develop their own worldviews than for teenagers.

Over the next four years not much changed apart from the fact that I earned—with the absolute minimum effort required—a degree in Computer Science.

Fast forward twenty years.

It's now 2008, and I'm a bit more mature than I was then. I've grown up and built a career, a couple of companies, and a family of my own. I know something about discipline, achievement, responsibility, and sacrifice. I'm proud of what I've done, and I find that I've become one of those people I imagined when I was eighteen who's experienced enough of the world to truly appreciate higher education. So I'm putting my theory to the test and going back to school.

I considered getting a master's in CS, but have decided instead to add an Economics major to my degree. I'll still be working on Spanning Sync (and other, unannounced projects) full time, so I'll only be have time for one or two classes each semester. My first day of class is Tuesday, January 20. 

And of course, I'll be blogging the whole thing here at FortyYearOldFreshman.blogspot.com1. Hook 'em.

1 OK, I'm not yet 40 (38, actually) and I won't be a freshman (degree-holding senior, technically), but "The 38-Year-Old Degree-Holding Senior" isn't quite right.


Fred Dixon said...

Hi Charlie,

I've toyed with the idea of going back to school, but in true leap-into-the-fire fashion, you are actually doing it.

I look forward to following your experiences.

Charlie said...

Hi Fred--long time no see! Yes, jumping in with both feet. Well, one foot anyway: I'm only taking a single class in the Spring semester. I'll let you know if it turns out I'm just romanticizing the whole thing.. ;-)


John said...

Hey Charlie,

Kudos on the return to school. If you get a chance, read David Denby's "Great Books". He's a film critic who at 48 goes back to Columbia to be reintroduced to literature he didn't have the life experience to fully fathom at age 18. Knowledge + experience = wisdom. Have fun at UT.

Charlie said...

Thanks, John! I've added it to me Amazon WIsh List. (Note to wife: hint, hint). :-)


Brian Dusablon said...

Best of luck to you, Charlie. I'm looking at a distance program from SDSU. Not sure about the time commitment though.

Charlie said...

Thanks, Brian. I'm starting slow--only one class this semester--to make sure I don't overextend myself.

I might bump that up to two classes next fall depending on my work schedule. The toughest thing is trying to predict 6 months out what that might look like.