Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Middle Class is Disappearing Because You're An *sshole

THIS article nearly ruined my morning.

Sample quote:

"Four out of five Arizona high-school graduates do not have a college degree six years after graduating from high school, and just over half haven't gone to college at all, a new report reveals....High schools need to do a better job preparing students for college, and community colleges and universities need to focus more on helping students finish their degrees."

Yes.  That's exactly it.  High school teachers need to spend more of their grossly underpaid time helping their already-matriculated students pass college courses.  Universities need to start handing out degrees like credit card application forms.

Or maybe, just maybe, Michael Crow's New American University, with its focus on job training and mass producing "products packaged in maroon*" needs to put a little more effort into making college worthwhile and enjoyable.  You know, like we pay them to do?

*I heard him say that during a graduation ceremony.  Seriously. 


Do you want to know why they don't graduate?  It's not because the work is too hard.  It's not because they're not prepared.  It's because lately, college kinda sucks.  There's a new focus on career training, and becoming active participants in a society, and we don't know what we want to do.  Nor do we want to do what you think we should do.  The academic side of college goes something like this:

College:  Give us your money.
Student:  Uh, okay.  How much?
College: More than you can afford.
Student:  Why?
College: Because we're building a new student union that you won't be able to use because we'll be renting it out to corporations to make more money to build more rentable properties.
Student: Why am I doing this again?
College: If you don't, you won't be able to get a job, or eat, or buy beer.
Student: *Sigh*  Okay.  Writes check.  Now what?
College:  Pick your classes.
Student: What kind of classes?
College:  Anything.  The whole world is at your feet.  We can teach you whatever you want to know about.
Student: Well, space exploration is kind of sweet--
College: Oh, God, don't pick that
Student: Why not?
College: Do you know how hard that is?  Do you know how competitive internships are in that field?  You'll never go anywhere with that.
Student: I thought I was just learning about it.
College: No, no, we are going to give you your money's worth!  You are going to make enough money to make alumni donations in the first year!  You will be a qualified candidate!  Just don't aim above your skill level, that makes us look bad.
Student: So what should I choose?
College: Anything.  The whole world is at your feet.  Notice that trite graduation cliche very neatly excludes the known universe.
Alumna comes in, wearing a graduation hat and some newspapers.
Alumna:  Hey, College?  What about that job you promised me?
College:  Bugger off, I"m busy. 
Alumna: But--
College: Stuffs Alumna's mouth full of newspaper and turns back to Student.  So.  Classes.
Student:  Okay, what about environmental sustainability?
College: Sure, but then you have to go to grad school here, too, because pretty much the only thing you can actually do with that is teach it to other people.
Student: So what should I take?
College: How about journalism?  Then you can't say anything bad about us in the newspaper because we gave you your degree.
Student: You know what?  I'm going to go do the dishes before my mom gets home.  She works hard, and loves me, and wants me to be happy.
College: No, wait, come back!  Don't you want your diplomaaaaaaaa?!
Student: F*ck you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Am Happy, But It's Not Because I'm Stupid

    I work very, very hard at believing in people.
    I know terrible things happen; that there are flies eating out the corners of starving children's eyes and that some women have seen their husbands chopped up by machetes while they were still alive and that there are people born capable of looking a human being in the eye without actually seeing them.
    I have spent whole years sleeping with my hands in fists and waking up more tired than I was when I went to bed; I have stayed awake all night wondering why I continue to eat and shower and work when I will only get older and slower and more bruised, when all of the people I love will leave me or die, when there are no guarantees that anything will ever get better.  I have wondered if death is perhaps a perferable alternative to attempting to deal with loss, which will only ever get larger and heavier. 
    I believe in God but I do not believe in rewards or fate or a plan of any sort; I think good and evil are constructs of the human mind and that everything is the product of random chance and the consequences of our own choices; I do not think that being a good person has any sort of payoff, or that bad people will or even should be punished.

    But I am a happy person.

    It's not because I ignore the fact that life is difficult and painful.  I don't tune it all out and put my iPod on and hope it will go away; I think about these difficulties often.  I am not always happy, but I choose to try to be.  Sometimes I fail.  But sometimes I don't.
   I was unhappy most of the time for nearly five years of my life, and the worst thing about it was how unhappy my unhappiness made the people I loved.  I made their lives difficult.  I was unpleasant to hang out with, obsessive and close-minded, and I drained them.  God bless them, they put up with me anyway, but it was a long five years for everybody.  And I don't want to do it anymore.
   I don't want to add to human misery.  God knows there's enough of it to go around; and I can't control where or when miserable events will occur in my life.  But I can control the way I react to them, and I can control whether or not I hurt other people, so I do.  I choose to be happy, and to treat people kindly, and to look for the best in them--not because I believe or even hope that the universe is a benevolent place, but rather because I believe that nobody else is freakin' gonna.
   No one else is required to keep their machetes away from my vital organs; no one else is even required to be happy or polite.  If I want someone to be nice, I have to do it.  If I want someone in this world to do the best they possibly can, the only real candidate is me.

   So please, in the name of the holiday season, and life not sucking more than it already does, if you meet a happy person, don't try to change them.  Don't try to make them see what's "real," and don't assume that they haven't experienced pain.  You're not enlightening the ignorant; you're adding to human misery.  And for some people, their attempts at bringing happiness to you are the only thing that makes their lives meaningful and worthwhile.  Don't take it away from them.