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Starting Out
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B and I were reminiscing this morning about starting out, leaving high school behind and entering college. She attended OSU; I went to Stanford at 16.

I spent my high school years in a small New England town village. My graduating class had 35 or so students. With such a small student body, my high school offered only the most basic of classes: English, French, Latin, math, U.S. history/civics, and each year, in rotation, one of the natural sciences--general science, biology, physics, chemistry (you took whatever was on offer that year).

There were no AP classes. My preparation for university was solid in the sciences and English/American lit, but nonexistent in world history, philosophy, psychology, political science, etc. I had never heard of Marx or Kant or....

I can remember that first year only too well. I was taking a full load of classes and working two part time jobs. I would go from class to class, taking notes like crazy, having no idea what the professor was talking about. I had never heard of Plato or existentialism or the Treaty of Ghent or anything.

It was very disorienting. There were many lectures where I found myself taking down every single word, because I didn't know what was important and what wasn't. I didn't understand the terminology, the references, even how to spell names like Nietzsche or Huguenot.

Nor even any idea how to link what I already knew to what was being presented, so that I could start to unravel the knowledge skein. I managed to pull B's and C's that first year, though I don't know how I did it, while working too. If you were to propose such a situation now, I'd say it couldn't be done. But I did it.

Dorm common room bull session topics were just as much of a mystery (existentialism??), though with my work schedule most of my "spare" time was spent sleeping or studying. The discussion sessions showed me how little I knew in comparison to the other freshmen around me, who had had a far more extensive high school education, many of them in AP classes and who came from affluent families where Daddy paid tuition and room/board.

I often thought of myself as a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

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