My school years

I started talking about educational institutions I attended, and I think it’s time to pick up that theme. This post originally covered school only, but I’ve decided to merge it with an originally seperate post about university.

I attended to Maitland Area School from June 1983 to November 1995. I remember seeing the green exterior of the Junior Primary building for the first time, and barely believing that a school could be that colour. I also remember how on my first day of class, we were instructed to write about our holidays. Bear in mind that for most students it was mid-year, but I had just moved from Scotland to Australia. Me: “Which holidays?” Teacher: “The holidays you’ve just had.” So I wrote something about an aeroplane, not that I could spell “aeroplane”.

The school originally followed the traditional division of classes into Junior Primary (the first two years, starting in the year the student turns six), Primary (the next five years) and Secondary (the final five years of school). Sometime during the later years of my attendence, however, the school adapted to a more modern division into Junior School (the first five years), Middle School (the next four years) and Senior School (the final three years). It was explained to us that the change was informed by scientific studies into how different learning conditions suit children of different age groups.

The school’s motto was (and is) the old cliche, carpe diem, which is easily ignored, but what I detested was the school hymn, which was sung at various special events. Stupid thing. “Oh God to thee our thanks we raise“, etc, etc. I hated it especially for reinforcing a cliche: namely, the cliche that your average hymn as sung in your average church is still full of “thee”s and “thy”s. The cliche is not true; in my experience, people in church use straightforward modern English almost all the time, but if the only hymn a lot of people are exposed to happens to be one with “thee” in it, what assumption are they going to draw about all the others? It’s bound to reinforce the destructive stereotype that religion equals conservatism.

Maitland Area School has a website now, but that didn’t exist when I was there, and there have been lots of changes since I left. Below is my own photograph of the school, taken over Christmas 2006 and originally posted to this blog in February 2007. From this particular angle the school looks more or less as it was, notwithstanding some changes to vegetation.

Maitland Area School

In my final year, I took Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geography and Computer Technology. I didn’t quite make it into university (I have never been academic), so in 1996 I moved to Adelaide and re-did some classes at a different school, Eynesbury College. Eynesbury specialises in teaching senior students who intend to go to university, and provides a learning environment that’s intended to bridge the gap between the two types of institution. (Again, it’s changed a lot since I was there.)

Back in tenth grade I’d done a week’s work experience in the oceanography department of Flinders University (coincidentally the same week that Grandpa died), and when I started my Bachelor of Science there I intended to major in that area. However, I changed my mind after finding out how dull second-year oceanography labs were. Sitting in a poorly-circulated room full of many hot bodies, manually transforming long tables of numbers into graphs for hours on end, is not my idea of fun. I switched my major to computer science.

According to the rules in force at the time, a Bachelor of Science in Computing requires a certain quota of science subjects, a certain quota of computing subjects, and a total quota of subjects larger than these two combined. So as long as the required quotas are met, any subject offered by the university counts towards the degree. Subjects I took other than the science and computing ones included some writing subjects – “Professional English“, “Advanced Professional English” (later renamed “Creative Nonfiction”) and “The Craft and Culture of Creative Writing” – and some linguistics subjects – “Words and Sounds” and “Language, Culture and Communication“.

I completed my degree in 2003 and the certificate was issued in 2004.

Incidentally, the most complex programming task that I ever completed for university was a Java implementation of the FP-Growth algorithm by Jian Pei. This will mean absolutely nothing to most readers.


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