Friday, June 18, 2010

The Flying University

by Drew Martin

When I finished my masters in Media Studies from the New School in New York in 2004, I knew I was stepping back out into a cold void of common thought. The last class I took was one devoted to the thesis peer review. Once a week, I met with a dozen other candidates and a supervisor and we critically discussed the progress of each other's work. At times it got quite intense. Once I finished my thesis, I felt I was alone again in the world, surrounded by people discussing little league soccer and kitchen renovations. My only chance of intellectual survival was to do what Madame Curie (Maria Sklodowska) did and "enroll" in the Flying University.

This University, also known as the Floating University, was a virtual school developed in Poland in the 1880s in order for students to study what they wanted despite the impositions of the Russian occupation. It was especially attractive to women, who would not have been permitted to pursue higher education. The system was quite simple: everything was done "underground". The students read on their own and met with a "professor". The system was revived in Poland during communism in order to maintain an intellectual class, which was being killed off by the Communist P
arty, and to prepare for a time of liberated education. Curie is a shining example of the unofficial program: she is the only person to receive Nobel Prizes in two different fields (Physics and Chemistry).

In the spirit of the Flying University I began my own course of study over five years ago to continue my own education unaffiliated with any particular institution; with the hopes of one day translating it into a Ph.D. Though the previous instances of the Flying University were secret affairs in opposition to state dictated and propaganda flavored curricula, my own motivation was born from complacency.

The goal of this study for me is to own a subject. I added to the concept that the "degree" is something like a pilot license, which must be maintained through experience and should be revoked if abused. I occasionally meet with certain minds to guide me along, but most of my work has been self guided and my readings are accompanied by copious notes. This blog is, in fact, part of the note process. These entries are ideas I will hopefully revisit later and expand upon.