Let’s talk about something else for once. Yeah. Let’s talk about. Hmm. Let’s talk about grades. I think I already talked about this, but not fully. Nope. Okay here we go.
I—fuck. I did it again. Well, dick it, You’re getting my ego whether you or I like it or not. I was in the 99th percentile for reading comprehension in first grade. I was reading at a high school level in third grade. Then I kinda quit any intense legitimate reading (I read comics, lots of Doonesbury and Dilbert and Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side) for a few years and pursued videogames. Then I lost all my videogames and got back to reading. I didn’t read the lord of the rings until I was thirteen and the movies were already two thirds of the way done. I thought the book was pretty dreadful, Tolkien was a fantastic world envisioner, but a dreadful writer. I will fisticuffs anyone who disagrees. Anyway, by that point I was going through about 3-4 novels a week because I had shit-all else to do at RICA or at home. I am not actually all that well-read, though, because I read the books that interested me, and that was pretty much comics and fantasy novels.
Anyway, I am a very good reader. I’ve got great reading comprehension, as competitive testing against other average students will show. I took an IQ test once because my therapist requested it and psychiatric professionals ejaculate all over that sort of thing. I got a score that was reasonably high but not shared with me for fear of blowing up my ego and letting me trumpet it around and feel superior to everyone. Or something. Ironic, given that that was pretty much the exact opposite of my behavior in tenth grade. I heard the number anyway cause the home ec lady (an amazing excommunicated catholic with one eye after a classmate had jammed a pencil into one of them when she was young. Also she was like seven feet tall. Not even kidding) was telling me off for something and was all like “how can someone with an IQ of 132 be so dumb yada yada yada” and I was all like “how do you know what my IQ is,” playing it all smooth, acting like I knew all along. Anyway my point is by some objective measurement, I’m really smart.
So I’m smart, right? I must do real good in school, where smarts count. Haha, no. I squeaked by every grade except ninth. In ninth I had straight A's and I was on the honor roll because I was living at rica and I had to do my homework or I couldn’t go do the activity and had to sit in my fairly bare room with nothing to do but feel badly about my decisions. So I did my homework. It’s a pretty shocking twist from 6th grade, where I got a 28% in math despite showing up every day and the only class I did good in was English, because quite frankly I was horrified of the teacher, Ms. Beadle, who might have been crazy. Got an 83% in that class. The kicker too is that I took geometry in ninth grade like all the good students who took algebra in eighth and I got me an A. So what is my point? Clearly grades are not correlated with smarts. I have buckets of that. I try my best to give it away. Nope, grades are about effort.
Now this is probably pretty obvious and not all that thrilling to all of those neat folks I know who spend a bunch of their time studying for all their tests and who do all their homework. I really think you guys are neat, and I appreciate that you have the passion and interest enough in your classes to do that sort of thing. I don’t. I really don’t do any homework. This last semester was a bit of a marvel in that I did quite as much as I did. Part of it was because I really liked the classes, part of it was because the homework was largely short quizzes I took on the internet once a week. Nothing too difficult, but I still did them the night before class. Cause I am a lazy motherfucker. I am as shortsighted as the day is long, too. If I had any real sense of consequence to my actions, I probably wouldn’t have done such a shitty job the semester before last. I also probably would have gone to the final for that bullshit music class, even though it was a bullshit class full of the most bullshitty bullshit any government spent $78 plus the $100 books and CDs on. But I need the grade. I need that letter that demonstrates the effort I put into the class. It doesn’t matter that the class was nothing but open book tests and rushed powerpoints being delivered by a person who I could barely hear, let alone comprehend. It doesn’t matter if the tacked on assignments were tacked on, like a “group presentation” that consisted of me listening to a series of people presenting the life history of lil’wayne and Johnny Cash. It most certain-buttfucking-ly does not mean that a damned person in that room learned a damn thing about music. No, it just means I put enough effort, flipped enough pages, knew where to find the right answers at to demonstrate that I did well in that class. I probably failed.
And I don’t give a fuck.
Thank god not every class is like that, otherwise I would have quit and taken to whoring myself on the street or ended up dead on the train tracks next to the transit center so I could be as big an inconvenience as possible. I would have died holding an extra bucket of blood or two just for good measure. What a story it would have been. “Young man, 18, dies while crossing train tracks with buckets of blood. Suicide has been ruled out for sheer unlikelihood.”
No, some classes have been sane. I really liked Polysci with Dr. Shumaker. Although she has an undeniably dour expression on her face that almost always makes me cringe and feel guilty when she looks at me, she is actually a funny and interesting person. Total shocker. I loved her class. No homework, just participation and tests. I spent all year listening to Professor Hasten lecture people who were doing poorly in her class that big kids college was gonna be nothing but a lecture delivered by a guy who doesn’t know your name and then exams. Seriously that is the best news I have had all year. I hate high school kiddie bullcrap. I hate the fact that I am in “college” and I still get assignments to make presentations and fucking posters. God. Damn. It. I am an adult, for fucks sake, and adult who is spending his government’s money and his own future money to learn things and instead I am being told to make posters about the things I have learned. Christ on a stick this shit is ridiculous. And most people don’t care. For most people it’s just more of the same. They went through all of their schooling doing this stuff back when the concept of doing a poster had a purpose: to keep kids from getting bored doing the same thing over and over. Now they’re adults and they take it for granted that instructors will go out of their way not to bore them. I love Professor Hasten to death, I think she’s a great teacher and a fascinating woman, but even I sat through some lectures that were essentially her repeating herself. Yes, it was boring, no I didn’t wave my hand around and demand that I be given something to color with. I’m a fucking adult. Doing boring things is what we’re supposed to do. We spend all our childhood being surrounded by glitz and glamor and epic struggles against fate and all sorts of things and then we grow up and realize that no, you’re going to spend a lot of your life doing pretty much the same things again and again. You get up in the morning, brush your teeth, go to work, and come home. You do whatever it is that you like to do and then you go to sleep. For the next 60 years. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s what all of you business majors are aiming for. So why does this college feel the need to pull the wool over our eyes and pretend that the future is full of all sorts of neat posters and powerpoints and awesome field trips and all sorts of things. If college is so “career-oriented” why does it spend all of its time teaching me how to do things that I probably won’t ever do in a career?
Fuck I wouldn’t care, but it’s my dollar. I go to college to learn, not to put effort into stuff. The effort is already in the dollar I gave you. General education requirements are already pretty bullshit. It ought to be my business if I want to be a well-rounded person or just take every history class I can get my hands on and fuck all the rest. Again, I wouldn’t care, but colleges are so expensive and profit driven these days. I am fortunate to go to such a cheap college, so maybe I should appreciate the cheap education I get. We’re even green, too. We just blew a whole wad of cash on building a fancy new theater arts center and putting in solar panels over the parking lot. Isn’t that great? So great we have a 50 inch plasma tv in the 2400 building telling us just how much electricity we’re saving! And it’s on 24/7! Way to go, Laspo.
Ugh, I just hate this place. I am only here because I didn’t apply to anything else in senior year of high school. I didn’t really want to go to college; I just wanted to be dead, mostly. People will tell me “quit and get a job and come back to college after a few years” as if that were actually feasible. As the job market continues to upgrade even its most unskilled labor into degree requiring positions, getting by without a degree continues to become less feasible. There’s a good reason for that, and it is money.
Money and immigrants, probably. The people who go to college are the people who can afford to or who have the guts to go into debt for it. Already right there that excludes most of the poor, the so-called “working” class that make up pretty much half of America. So great. Keep that riff-raff out of the proper jobs. The poor have no manners and no taste. I know because I watched the king of queens reruns for a really long time. So here we have an excellent system of social stratification. Keep the riff-raff and the people unwilling to play the debt game here in America at the bottom by reserving all of the nicely paying jobs for people who get degrees irrelevant to the positions they are working in, and ignore the probability that simply working in these positions should provide one with all of the skills necessary to effectively work in that position in due time. It’s a barrier to social mobility, and only a fairly recent one at that. Used to be if you wanted to be a bigwig in a company, one either worked their way up from the bottom or knew somebody that knows somebody. Nowadays one first goes to college and then works their way to the middle or so and stays there or else they know somebody that knows somebody and get to the top. The reason presented, the ostensible purpose of this system is to identify the people who would put in enough effort to complete college and thus hire only those who are capable of putting effort into things. What a load of it. Poor people work fantastically harder than I ever have. For every strung-out couch surfing meth addict there is a harried single mother working two jobs and all sorts of people in between. And that’s primarily blue collar work. Undesirable work. Stuff that isn’t ritzy in the least. The middle and upper class get white collar jobs, easy desk work, stuff that is not nearly as physically demanding. What effort is it exactly?
Globalization plays a role here. Immigrants from countries with conservative cultures such as Pakistan, India, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea have flooded in for essentially the same reason people always flock to America. Money. Of course they bring their culture with them, and of course they adapt it to American traditions. Financial success is a matter of great concern for the families coming here, given their reason for emigration. In America, that success is inexorably linked to becoming a person in great demand, such as a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer. So families pressure their children to become successful doctors, lawyers, or engineers, because to the people of these traditional cultures, children are not independent beings, but carriers of the family legacy and products to be exploited for the family wealth. This is a wholly un-American point of view, but one that has been embraced in a very American fashion as a great source of wealth for colleges. These families will invest huge amounts of money into their children, as they assume them to be presumptive nest eggs. Many are, as that is the culture they are brought up into. They grow up being treated kingly and then they fulfill their end of the bargain and score top marks, earn the best grades, get the best degrees. Colleges and high schools pick up on this, and try to get as many hard-working Asians as they can into their schools so it looks like they’re a top-notch organization worth being funded by the government, when really they just happen to have tapped into a culture that values responsibility to the family over responsibility to the self. These kids aren’t “smart.” They’re certainly not smarter than me. They’re just hard working because they know their families will disown them if they don’t work hard.
It’s all a game, like everything else. I wish I had been born into an earlier time when colleges were reserved solely for the rich not through monetary exclusion, but simply because the poor didn’t need a college degree and often found it an effeminate and unnecessary privilege. The only people in college were the people who either cared about this stuff or were too lazy for a “real” job and preferred to read books and tell people what they thought about things instead of contributing anything worthwhile to society. I asked what kind of effort modern college demonstrates. The answer is probably something close to “how much bullshit will you put up with?”