I've written up two different statements, and I'm trying to decide which to use, or whether I should dare try mashing them together into some unsightly beast.
I'd rather get criticism on the first, so if it looks too tl;dr just ignore the second. Thanks, all.
It’s 2005. I’m 17 years old, sitting across from a man at a table in a quiet room. He is tired, bleary-eyed, maybe ten years my senior. He came in and said he needed some help; he was due out in an hour, and was looking for a quick fix. Even a brief look tells me this is not something I can make all better in the time he has. Should I tell him? Should I try to explain the more serious problems he’s facing, how deeply rooted it all seems to be? He can’t change it all now, and by the next time he probably won’t remember. Maybe it’s better to just give him what he wants this time, and hope he comes in again later. Maybe then I’ll be able to make a real difference. I look at the sharpened point on the tool in my hand, give the man another quick glance, and get to work.
15 minutes later, he hurries off down the stairs, looking more awake and a little happier. I put down my pencil. I wonder if he’ll be able make the changes by the time his class starts, or just stop by at the end to turn the paper in. I had fixed his spelling mistakes, suggested writing a new thesis statement, told him to keep his topic sentences relevant and sent him down to the computer lab to remedy what he could of the assignment.
Working as a tutor at the community college was usually rewarding; I liked helping other students with English papers or problem sets, but it often seemed that I was not doing enough. I only taught the few that came in, and only worked with the material they brought, but it seemed there was little else I could do from a desk in the library.
Today, though, my circumstances are different, and they afford me the opportunity to attempt a greater impact on education of the sort I sought before. As to how I am to go about this, I do not know. While of course I have a good many ideas of what to change in the educational system, I know little about how to change it. If I am to deal with educational policy I must understand the system of laws that gives it context, or the historical precedents leading to its current state. My ignorance of these issues is likely all the worse for the fact that the first half of my education was quite divorced from the system they concern. I was homeschooled from early childhood, and my first experience with public education was the community college I attended. My family moved often during that interim, going from New England to south Texas to California. We frequently took road trips to visit extended family all across the country, and I was exposed to a remarkable variety of people and cultures at a young age. We would visit national parks and heritage sites to learn history or geography or whatever else we could find relevance to. It was a style of learning that I greatly enjoyed and it encouraged an inquisitiveness that I have found invaluable not just in my later schooling but also in how I approach problems in the everyday.
In California, when I was 13, I started taking supplementary classes at a community college. I quickly switched my curriculum over and became a fulltime student the next year. Shortly after, I began tutoring on campus and continued until transferring out. By the time I left to complete my degree I had already decided on a major. I liked taking things apart, seeing how they worked and then piecing them back together, so I majored in philosophy. Why limit myself to the physical with engineering when I could have all the range of discourse to peruse? I hope to apply the same skills I acquired then in learning the intricacies of the system I intend to work within.
I seek now to make a difference in education, for I believe it to be the best means to many ends, and to be the best of many ends itself. Though I know not yet how to effect the change I wish to see, I am convinced that it should be brought about, and that I will be able to do so. I trust the course of my study will be as engaging as it will be challenging, and I look forward to working with you in the effort.
And statement the second:
I was homeschooled. Perhaps I place undue emphasis on that fact as a defining characteristic of my identity, but I attribute more and more of where I find myself today to not having had an ordinary education. It was convenient, not being tied to a school, since my family seemed to move every three years or so. And while of course much of our schooling took place at home, the frequent road trips we took afforded my mother, my primary teacher, the chance to use whatever landmark we have passed that day to provide lessons that were engaging and got me asking questions about the particular subject. From the Midwest to New England to south Texas and California, and visiting widespread extended family all across the country, I have seen a lot of different cultures and met a lot of different people. No matter where I go, I always find something interesting to find out more about. And so, my education took place at the national parks and monuments that we passed when moving, or when driving my brothers to college in the fall. Even when visiting a great uncle in Oklahoma, and trying to figure out why that state had so much more roadkill on the highway. Learning this way encouraged an inquisitiveness that I have found invaluable not just in my later schooling but also in how I approach problems in the everyday.
In 2001, when we had stopped traveling as much, I began taking classes at a local community college to supplement my other course work. The next year I was a fulltime student, and spent five more years there, before transferring to Berkeley to finish my Bachelor’s degree. By that time I had found what I wanted to major in, something I could get excited about each day. I have always liked taking things apart and looking at the different pieces to discover how they all work together to become the one greater object, so it was suggested I take engineering classes or physics, but the choice was obvious: philosophy. It was a subject I could engage with at any level, and apply to anything I encountered. It was thrilling to be able to distill two unrelated issues to their constituent arguments, and find similar structures of reasoning. Whatever matter currently interested me, sometimes least of all my classes, I sought to look deeper into the theory behind it, to ferret out its basest premise.
I loved the focused attention to a given study and the academic environment that fostered that, but what I most thank that time for is simply the opportunity to find something I so enjoy pursuing, that I can enjoy for the rest of my life. And yet there are so many people I meet that have not been given the same chance. When I tutored at the community college, it was rewarding being able to help the people that came in, but I worried that my efforts were in vain. Though I could provide short-term help on an English paper or a math assignment, there was really nothing I could do then to remedy the underlying problem; there was nothing in school they were passionate about. It is from this lack that I am inspired now. I realize that I want to offer these people the same opportunity I had to find something I love. My own education is what enabled my own discovery, but that history is an uncommon one, and surely would not be effective or practical for everyone. I cannot even state that education is to be the source of this passion for all people; but I think it is a good place to start.
Though I do not yet know how to effect the change I wish to see, or even, fully, what changes should be made, I trust I will learn far more in the process than I expect. I look forward to working with you, and with everyone at the law school, and hope that together we can make this the engaging experience it deserves to be.