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Introduction, a bit long and Advice

  1. Jan 19, 2010 #1
    Hello all,
    I'll start with the beginning to give the best overall picture.

    I was born and raised in a religious cult. The impact on my life due to this has been significant as one could imagine. I'll leave the religious identity out as this isn't the forum for it. With such an upbringing education was considered secondary and non-important thus attendance was only based on Governmental requirements to avoid legal issues within the religion. The basics was all that was required and any type of further advancement or increased learning was discouraged and at times outright denied.

    I achieved the std. high school education and that was it. it was expected of me to continue in further religious advancement within the groups own facilities but I managed to dodge that bullet. In school I managed to convince the counselors to let me take additional math and science classes vs basic electives. It was even necessary for the classes to not show up on the grades reported every semester or I'd get, well lets just call it punished. So I was listed as a TA. I took algebra, geometry, physics and chemistry.

    that's the basics of my education. I did however have a tumultuous education though as I was not the normal student. I found the experience to be very dull and completely without challenge. In my 6th yr of school I had decided to no longer comply with the farce of everything since college and any further study beyond school was forbidden why bother? I never did a HW assignment, not single piece of paper. I did however set the bell curve on every exam in class, the teachers and administration found this to be insulting and defiant. With the close of 6th grade they wanted to fail me and hold me back for that grade or send me off to a school for those in juvenile jail. Not something my parents wanted and once again I was "punished" for my behavior.

    The educational board decided to have me tested by psychologists and then take a full day of testing I enjoyed that as I was able to be at school on a Saturday and not at home, says a lot does it not? The results of all this was that I was not receiving enough of a challenge academically and needed to be placed into program that would. Now you can guess how that went over, see the school wanted me to go to outside education and take classes at the local college while taking the few advanced classes they had there. No, was the answer and the reason was that it was not needed and a waste of time! needles to say my parents were not the most accepted. The district even at one point tried to have my sister and I removed from the home and put into foster care, they did not succeed.

    So where is this going? yes I do have a reason for the shortened background. My mother did one good thing for us growing up, we always went to the local public library from at least day one. I was able to read before going into kindergarten and spent all my free time voraciously reading. When I was 8 the library had a book sale and I was given a 1953 printing of "introduction to applied physics" the librarian gave it to me as it had not sold that day, it also helped that going to the library 3 times a week for the last 8yrs made me somewhat of a resident there. Any case I was instantly in love with this new subject and went thru the book teaching myself the subject. Looking back it helped that it was a basic physics course and delt with application vs theory.

    After finishing my compulsory education, I found that I was now expected to pay my own way. Thankfully I had a job already, see back when I was in 10th grade the local business would contact the school and offer part time jobs in various industries. I had been taking a drafting class with new at the time acad, being the only one willing to work I took it. With school over and now 2yrs of steady part time employment I felt that I could manage. I left home at 19 because I was tired of handing over 25% of my income to my parents and still have to abide by all the rules. I think the Amish lived with more freedoms.

    I figured that at 19 and on my own I could then try and further my education, apparently not. For some reason my parents financial info was still needed. I decided to employ something I found to be an advantage I had and also a bit of 'fudging'. All I knew was the world of drafting and architecture. So I went to the local college book store and bought some books on architectural engineering and spent the most on autodesks books and taught myself what I could. within the yr I was able to talk myself into a job with a firm and finished the hands on part of acad while employed (no they did not know). I worked my way up moving between firms to being the construction admin and architectural designer. I had acquired enough on-job experience to be grandfathered in to get my license. I started my own firm and did that for a bit.

    Life moving along with marriage and children. When my first son was born I closed up shop and did the dad thing, the best thing I've ever done! Now with two boys and the youngest starting school this fall. I find that I want to pursue my need to learn. I've never stopped reading, I have a library full of textbooks and lecture notes from UCSB to MIT on physics and astrophysics. published works from a laymen read to advanced like Penroses' latest 'guide'. I try to keep up as time permits with what is going on in research. not an easy task! and probably not possible.

    I also broke free and left the cult 2yrs ago, better late than never. My oldest has Aspergers and I've done tons of research and reading on that, it has been very satisfying to read study the research and genetic work being done and apply that to helping my son.

    Currently my source of income is from, and this is where I wouldn't know how to classify it. I invent, design and manufacture parts for the automotive racing industry as well as build race engines. I'll leave it generic as it's a small field worldwide and sensitive to it's privacy.

    So now recently I've been on contact with colleges and find that I'm going to have to start at square 1. SAT testing and high school transcripts, well need I mention that my grades and classes listed are not going to help at all. Seems counter productive at 35yrs old to start with those requirements. The SAT's I don't take pause on, I tutored my wife for her GRE and found that to be oddly easy. Yes there is a dis-congruency with my wife's education to mine, but that's another story.

    What is the reality of college with respect to physics? I don't really care if there is a lack of employment or pay in it, I have other income sources at this point in my life. I do wonder if I'll find it satisfying or frustrating as I've been a self teacher for my entire life. I do not consider to know anything or have the answers, I have a desire to learn and irritating to most question everything. I'm not after a degree or a piece of paper. I do realize the limitations though to self study in this field. My informal education is a smattering of books and lectures covering introductory to post doctorate work with no cohesive structure.

    I use some programs such as solidworks, camworks and recently acquired mathmatica7 which I'm playing with.

    The prospect of general ed requirements really make me second guess going to college. How do you approach a university or college to figure out if there is a way to not have to fill those requirements, classes of study that typically are gained through life experience? I run an international business and grasp the social economic impact here along with the long term goals that some very big companies have for the economy.

    What interests me is the unknown and the why. I'm caught in the madness of trying to understand the why knowing that is probably not possible, probably being the driving force. I'll bring the long diatribe to and end here. What should I expect?

    questions welcome
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2010 #2

    I'm just a second-year uni student who went straight from HS to uni, so anything I say is just a reaction to parts of your (inspiring!) story I identified with or had thoughts about. A bit of my own story--just where I'm coming from with this. I went to a good math/science high school, but was underprepared for it by previous education, and spent most of the first two years hating everything about the structure of the educational system, feeling very out of place and angry despite getting good grades and enjoying independent reading and informal talk with curious peers and teachers about math and physics. Classes were largely easy and often boring; I got by by doing some of the work, but mostly my math/sci teachers knowing that I loved their subject and just wasn't interested in computing the derivatives of twenty polynomials and the like. I wasn't a unidirectional math geek either, I did and do read widely and my favorite classes were English.

    Coming to uni, it was a huge shift for me to accept that the work profs assigned was rarely busywork, mostly carefully designed to guide students through major concepts. I continued spending most of my time thinking about math/physics doing problems and thinking about reading that wasn't from class. I'd intensely disliked the grade-grubbers in high school and most respected kids who were endlessly curious in math/science and pursued their interests beyond classes, and I took that attitude to uni (conveniently playing down that many of them also had excellent grades). I haven't entirely recovered and I doubt I ever will, but formal schooling and I have a working relationship now... :rolleyes:

    That said, with my background, I identified with the focus on self-study, the realization that more systematized study is important and often provided in schools, and the complicated interaction with/thoughts about formal schooling. First thought--could you audit classes at a local school? Seems like you're self-directed and motivated enough that you would get a lot from that and even do problem sets and exam problems, which would provide you all of the benefit of a formal uni class on stuff minus the grade towards degree credit. It doesn't seem like you need to enroll in a formal degree program and endure all the ******** that involves, since you have an income source and no plans to shift to something requiring a physics degree professionally. You want to be able to focus on things you care about and take them to a different level by trying this new, more systematic approach--and it's possible there are ways to do that without bringing back the negative aspects of school.

    Also, it seems fairly common for professors to allow people from the community to audit classes or at least sit in on lectures--most of them would probably be thrilled to meet someone who really wanted to go deeply into their subjects, the kind of student who would go to office hours to talk physics/math/etc. with no ulterior motivations re: grad school, etc. (If I'm misreading what kind of thing you want to do, please correct me--maybe you're looking into grad schools? Though similar things apply to, say, graduate classes). You'd be the kind of student many professors love to teach--you come across that way, and if you met with some I bet they would get that impression too, and perhaps be willing to help with problems concerning formal prereqs.
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