I'm in the 303 class with the most delightful people, struggling over stupid personal problems that I know intellectually are not the baggage of a twenty something and don't need to be carted into an environment primarily populated with twenty somethings. I found myself crankily spouting some cynical ideas about the educational system and how we simply can't cater to everyone as though every person at college level somehow "deserves" to be there and "deserves" to get good grades simply because they want them.
I have made a rough peace with the establishment over the years; go on and call me a radical intellectual if you like that term. I can handle that. I've thought long and hard about what it means to pay to go to college and find out that in many circumstances grades are meaningless and I'm just paying more or less for a diploma. I have learned to pursue my teachers like a hound dog to get the most out of my education, because I want my time and money's worth, too. I have an ESL husband and I've watched him go nakedly through school, learning to deal with "the man" and "the system" on many levels. I decided to go back to school because I love learning and I want the paycheck that comes with the diploma, and I like to navigate the syllabuses and quirks of my professors as part of the game. Like participating in any competitive sports event, I put my mind towards winning and force the body to follow, because I believe more or less in the rhetoric of the current zeitgeist's educational system. I do what I have to do to survive and succeed.
I am stumped and ashamed when I realize that for many of my peers, these are still the radical years, where you question all authority all the time. My peers are still deciding what's ethical and what's appropriate and how to deal with "the man" and "the system" and wondering if they should encourage others to fight the power. They haven't become exhausted from constant war, and haven't learned to pick their battles.
I am saying to myself: here we are in this nifty year 2008 where everyone has free, unlimited outlets for their creativity: the internet, 'zines, music, poetry.... Why should you get all hung up on whether or not you can't be creative in your college essays, when essentially it's just part of the hoops you jump through to demonstrate you can jump through hoops (and theoretically land yourself a job on the other side)? Why not simply smile at your classmates and say "Subversive is as subversive does. Write the essay the way your prof wants it, and then post a snarky version on your blog!" or "Use the lingo to your advantage - make it look technically perfect, but turn the arguments to your advantage, use excellent logic, and make your professor concede to your point whether or not he/she likes it." Why fight about the logic of irritating, exacting, particular-style-loving profs, don't you realize this is just a taste of what work is like in the real world?
I feel old and grumpy. I'm tired of a lot of the jargon that's new for my classmates and afraid of some of the "old stuff" that I don't know as well as I think I do (save me, Martha Kolln!) and worried that what I perceive as friendly shyness will come off as weird and inappropriate to my age. Alas, I have thought about these issues without actually doing anything about them for a long, long time.