This blog is a space for me to record and react as I make my way through the independent major I have just created at St. Olaf College. Titled “Growing Up in America: A Study of American Identities,” it’s a whirlwind study of why Americans do what we do and what makes us who we are. From child rearing, to schooling, to technology and social media use and the ever changing meaning of the “American Dream,” this major is a multimedia collage of the habits that shape the way the world sees us and the way we see the world. It combines American Studies, Psychology, Anthropology, and Education, to create a complex depiction of what it means to grow up in America.
Specifically, these pages will chronicle my work on two separate independent study courses: “Child Rearing Across Cultures” with St. Olaf Anthropology Professor Tom Williamson, and “Education in the U.S.” with St. Olaf Education Professor Maria Kelly. They will also serve as a place to share articles from my daily breakfast dates with The New York Times and the Star Tribune–a place to write about an article pertaining to the hidden curriculum of the world outside of the classroom, and to make connections that go beyond the idyllic Hill that is St. Olaf College.
Eventually, this ongoing blog will become a large part of my Independent Study Web Portfolio, and will likely serve as a source of inspiration for my Senior Project (a museum exhibit of American Identity that provokes questioning in each and every visitor.)
My fascination with American identities stems from my own struggle to find my identity as a young woman in this country. I am always curious. I want to know why I do what I do, and why I think what I think. I want to know how the experiences I’ve had (academically and outside of the school system) fit together to explain who I have become and how I see the world. Still, I’m not just a self-interested American individualist. I also like to observe the people around me. I love to imagine where they have been and where they are going and what they see, and I love to think about the cultural patterns that shape the habits of our hearts. And here you find the meaning of the title of this post. I have always been, and will forever be, a people watcher.
This project takes my passion of sitting on the peeling benches of parks across this country, taking in the details of strangers in moments that no one else would notice, and brings those moments together to paint a portrait of what connects us all. The mother in spandex jogging behind an eco-friendly brightly colored stroller meets the man with the course white beard living beneath the bridge, and the minority student working two part time jobs after school and dreaming of the day he can finally leave this good-for-nothing town and start living this “Dream” he’s heard so much about but never seen meets the overachieving glasses-wearing all-around athlete with straight A’s who was pushed her whole life to make some sort of ambiguous “difference” that involves a high paying salary and her name in print somewhere prestigious.
Let the adventure begin.