Over the weekend, I spoke at the IHS Scholarship and a Free Society seminar at Chapman University. This week, I spoke and helped lead discussions at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's American Freedom Institute. At the end of May and beginning of June, I spoke at a weekend seminar sponsored by the Foundation for Economic Education and the Ayn Rand Institute. Mises University ends on Saturday. A lot of organizations are sponsoring summer seminars for grad students.
I love attending and speaking at events like these. Spending a lot of time discussing great books and great ideas embodies the highest ideals of liberal education, in my mind. I'm pretty sure I learn more than the students. What are we supposed to do with all this great new knowledge?
I offered some advice on this in 2008, 2009, and 2010. It hasn't really changed that much. Take your notes and use them to craft a foundation for the papers you need to write. At IHS seminars at which I've taught, we've kept running bibliographies in a Facebook group that have basically created organic syllabi of sorts. Use these as jumping-off points for your research.
You should also use what you've learned as the basis for op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, book reviews, and other "public outreach"-type writing. Writing like this can be a source of side income, but that's not the only reason to do it. First, it's a way to advance the ideas that nourish the roots of a free society. Second, if you're in a position where you have to do a lot of serious writing, it's an excellent way to warm up. Third, I think the hard constraints you have to deal with when writing a letter to the editor, an op-ed, or a blog post help you practice focusing your arguments and translating them into plain language.
If you attended one of these events, you've no doubt acquired a lot of great new ideas, great new friends, and great new books. It's time to go from being a consumer to being a producer. Good luck, and Godspeed!