Adult Education.

I did not write a post last week. I feel as if I should offer some background for my dereliction of duty, although simply saying, “I didn’t write it, Sir.” would be sufficient.

So, with some hesitation, I’m going to discuss what we call “adult education.” In short, for the first half of March Katherine and I have been taking non-credit courses at our local community college. The institution itself is remarkable: a collection of pleasant utilitarian buildings on a rolling campus in nearby Ypsilanti. (I’m also fascinated by the interchangeability of “Ypsilanti” and “Oklahoma” in song lyrics, but that’s another topic.)

What’s so wonderful about adult education, at least in this setting, is that the dynamics of student and teacher are changed. Many of the “students” are older than the “teacher.” Many of us have done reasonably well in our chosen careers. The teacher has his/her role because he or she wants to share specific knowledge with others. His or her “authority” derives from the fact that the teacher has something we want, and we are willing to take on the student role because that’s the way we get it.

The courses we’ve been taking are photography courses. In one, an introduction to digital cameras, all the students bring their cameras and explore how they function in detail under the guidance of a professional archivist-photographer who works in the University of Michigan library system. The class blends elements of a standard lecture and a seminar, as we listen to a presentation and then try to figure out how to address the technical “stuff” with our own equipment.

The other class, more challenging, is an introduction to Adobe’s “Lightroom” program. Our instructor directs a research lab at the University, but digital photography is her avocation. She knows Lightroom and Photoshop in depth, and keeps up a dizzying pace. Each of the students has a desktop computer in the classroom, and we try to follow her instructions.  This was my second course with her. In the first course, I frequently fell behind, and struggled between trying to catch up and trying to keep up. This time, I realized that a suitable muffled cry of anguish would get her attention, and that she would give a little help to the lost sheep of the flock.

Now, the problem I have with adult education, and want to discuss, is homework. As Hamlet says, “Ay, there’s the rub!”  Suppose that I decide I want to be good at Lightroom. Not just competent, but really GOOD. Well, Malcolm Gladwell tells us, after considerable study, that I need to put in about 10,000 hours of practice with it. Well, maybe I can negotiate a little. How about 3000 hours with the camera and 7000 hours with Lightroom? I keep a calculator in the desk drawer for problems like this.

Let’s say I spend three hours a day, four days a week, working on my photography. That’s a bit over 600 hours per year. It’s going to take me sixteen years to get really good! At that point, I’ll be getting frighteningly close to age 90! Grandpa Adams?

The business of life: the dental hygienist, the tax accountant, the eye exams and grocery shopping, it all gets in the way of racking up those 10K hours. So what do we do?

This is the part where you get to decide if you are an optimist or a pessimist. Pessimists, go binge-watch House of Cards and wait for something bad to happen. Optimists, take a deep breath and get started. We probably won’t ever make the grade as real experts, but we’ll have the fun of learning along the way.