I’m not sure if I’ve ever admitted this on the blogs but… I was a really good at physics in college. This is like six years ago, and college courses aren’t very much like the real world, so it’s all water under the bridge now. But I never got so much as an A minus. I was consistently an outlier on tests. And I never really needed to study, because I got enough out of attending lectures.
Lectures are often derided as one of the least effective methods of teaching, since they involve no student participation. In retrospect, the reason I got so much out of lectures is because for me, lectures were participatory. Professors would solve problems on the board, and my practice was to solve the same problems in my notes, one step ahead of the professor whenever possible. Not everyone can keep that pace, so I’m not exactly offering this as advice to students. I was simply thinking about how participation is paramount to learning.
What makes blogging so valuable to me is that it is a kind of participation.
I conform to a certain physicist stereotype. I think I can solve problems outside my field by building ridiculous toy models. There was that time that I tried modeling wealth distribution, and welfare, and then there was that whole evolutionary game theory thing, and then the ontological arguments.
There is a danger in this kind of analysis, in that I might be so arrogant to think I’ve understood problems that are beyond me. I could be the crank physicist who thinks he’s figured out cancer, or climate science. I am aware of the problem, and correct it by not taking my conclusions too seriously, and by doing at least a little research to see that I’m not totally off-base.
Less obviously, I take the same approach to social issues and other topics. I always try to generate original analysis, not for originality’s sake, but because if I don’t think about it on my own, then I haven’t learned about it. Sometimes this goes against social justice norms, such as the norm that I as a cis guy shouldn’t be offering original analysis of trans issues, but should instead be amplifying the voices of trans people. I agree with this norm, and think there is a lot of reason to it, but it doesn’t really fit with my desire to learn about things by actively producing my own thoughts about them.
I am selfish: I prioritize my own learning over the rest of y’all. I have been waiting for someone to call me out on it.
This is what blogging is to me. The rest of you, who merely read my writing rather than producing it, you’re missing out.