We are one week into MAPH and time to write the first of many substantive posts on the program, its strengths, and weaknesses. These posts will come under the heading of “MAPH: Week___” and will be published on Saturday or Sunday during the school year.
I have struggled with how to discuss my experience of the MAPH program. First, it would be easiest to simply praise the program every time it impresses me and rant every time it disappoints. This approach would also probably get the most hits. There is drama to this sort of treatment and as long as a balance of ups and downs remains, the blogger avoids the labels of “easily pleased and unrealistic” or “hopelessly unhappy and cynical.” However, posting about every little triumph or disappointment seems to reek of the narcissism that so often characterizes whiny teenagers. Since one of the goals of this blog is to create an insider tool for potential MAPH students as they ponder the program from the outside, I would rather craft fewer, longer essays that represent more time in the program and smooth day-to-day spikes.
The second issue I struggle with is whether to name names. While I am writing this pseudonymously, this is not so that I can expose the Hidden World of MAPH while remaining anonymous. My friends and family read the bog, as do a few of my fellow MAPHers. They know who I am, and quite frankly, if one is inside the program and got truly upset with something I said, there are more than enough clues just in my “About Me” page to unravel my secret identity.
However, I have a certain sensitivity to the subjective nature of my comments and wish to avoid two potential pitfalls of writing this blog with my name and picture on the masthead. 1) If I write something that impugns some aspect of the U of C, its administrators, and its professors on the basis of my personal experience, I don’t want to wonder if it is effecting my success in the program. I’m not just “me” doing this program. I represent my wife who is keeping the home-fires burning and paying my living costs, my family who has sacrificed to contribute to my education, and all the folks back through that education who have pinned some hopes and dreams on my success. If something bad happens, I’d rather not wonder if I brought it on myself and messed things up for all those other people. 2) As I’ve already implied, I don’t want to write a “dear diary” blog that becomes overly concerned with my day-to-day successes and failures. The “maphman” moniker reminds me that I am trying to provide an “every student” perspective–like Jimmy Stewart with a messenger bag.
Names are specifics and specifics are what blogs are all about. A friend of mine who writes a religion blog told me once that his most popular posts were always those that mentioned a specific individual and the most viewed posts were those that raked those individuals over the coals. I’m not in this to become a superstar blogger, but I am hoping that these posts will become helpful to somebody down the road and that also seems to demand something more than vague generalities. So, yes, I will name names–but keep in mind that these are my experiences and your mileage will vary.
Finally, a blog has to be fun–either fun in the silly way or fun in the intellectual way–but either way it has to be entertaining and edifying. I hope that my posts up to this point have demonstrated a healthy sense of human and a certain pop-culture sensibility even when addressing heavy topics. Expect more of the same. So, that’s the shape of things to come… the goal is to provide an insider’s view of the program, discuss its strengths and its weaknesses with equal rigor, and hopefully provide a laugh or two along the way. The first week post will come out tomorrow and I look forward to your comments and critiques then.