Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I find you gone...

When I entered, three years ago, the university system, I was thrilled. The idea of going through a program of specialized classes where I would have classmates with similiar goals, ideas, and level of education, where I would make friends with people in my own age group with our similiar backgrounds and interest... the whole thing was very exciting for me.

However, I found that such was not the case. The majority of my classmates were morons. I suppose it was my own fault, choosing a major that was in the humanities field, populated with women striving to be social workers (not the most intelligent decision in the first place).

We shared nothing in common. I was the black sheep in all of my classes. I wanted to explore and question, I wanted to understand different ideas and try to rid myself as much as I could from my ethnocentric view points. I wanted to expand myself.

I found the social worker types to be more of the "define what is healthy, define what is not healthy, anything different must be exterminated" mindset.

This did not quite work for me.

There were no intelligent discussions. There were no new friends, only old ones that happened to be going to the same college, but in different majors. After the first semester, I did not even bother. I read my texts, I read between classes, and group projects were a thing to be avoided at all costs.

I graduated and moved on.

Then it was suggested to me that I go back for my Master's.


No, not in my previous major. That would be a nightmare.

English. I can do English. Maybe meet other like-minded individuals that love books, love reading, love writing, as much as I do.

I went to examine the path that lay before me.

Pre-requisites. Switching majors means I needed to take classes that would be required for entry into the Master's program.

300-level classes, designed for English majors.

What could go wrong?

Within the first week of school, a man made the comment, "What was that woman's name? The one that... ah, she was French. People were starving so she offered them dessert?"

Then last night.

We were assigned a paper last, choose one of four topics. Introduction+Thesis, supporting paragraphs, conclusion, MLA format. Simple. And the class was for English majors, so these people have been taking the classes needed to get their BA in English. The last few semesters for them have been English focused.

We turn in our papers, she passes them back, as we're to read two of our classmate's papers and critique them.

First paper had beautiful language, an iffy thesis, two supporting paragraphs that did not truly use items from the text to support their thesis, much less relate to the prompt the writer had chosen. The third paragraph, supposed to be the conclusion, was more of a supporting paragraph. It accomplished nothing. No argument was made, analysis was poor, poor enough that a conclusion was not able to be drawn.

I did not know what to say on the critique, so I was honest.

But the second paper, oh the second paper.

I was trying so hard during the entire reading of it not to laugh aloud. It was one of the most pathetic things I had ever read during my college career. The prompt was, essentially, to compare the motivations and ideas behind Locke's "New Negro" to one of the Harlem movement sonnets the professor had provided, and to show how and why that sonnet supported Locke's philosophy.

Epic fail.

I don't even know what this girl did. It's like she said, "Oh, write about a poem, I got it!" and just took a poem and interpreted it. Horrifically. I wanted so badly to steal her paper so I could scan it in and upload it to this blog. It read like it was written by a 7th grader, maybe lower.

So she took Langston Hughes' poem, "I, Too" (which, mind you, was not a poem you were allowed to select for this essay because it was not a freaking sonnet) and interpreted it.

Something like, "Oh, the poor black man has been kicked out of the kitchen but one day America will recognize the worth of the poor negro and let him into the kitchen and let him eat at the table instead of on the floor."


Now imagine four pages of that.

I was rolling.

What made it even better was at the end of the essay, it's like she realizes that she was supposed to bring Locke's work into the paper, so she has two sentences that say something about Locke feeling like he's been kicked out of the kitchen and needs to come back in, too, and that's her conclusion.

Thank you, California education system.

Even with that, I do not believe that anyone in the English program will ever top the biggest Sociology student blunder I have ever seen in my life.

400-level class with possibly the hardest professor in the department. In this class you had to Be On Your Game.

Group project.

Take an assigned reading, interpret, and then make a 10 to 15 minute Power Point presentation for the class. Five students per group. Divide work evenly.

We were assigned Levi-Strauss's "Structural Study of Myth". Easy, easy stuff.

Basic theory is that instead of reading a story in chronological order, you break the story into pieces based on events and group them based on commonalities and read the meaning that way. Really cool idea.

So, of course, someone else starts taking charge of the group. I don't step up.

Five, ten minutes in, everyone admits that they read it and they have no idea what it's talking about.

Except me.

I read it, understood it, and ended up spending the entire rest of the class explaining it until all but one guy got it. And then I assigned workload. The next time we met up, one person had been able to do what they had been assigned, the rest just got confused and did not do anything.

And the one guy, who we will call Steve, had no idea what was going on.

I break it down again. I discuss it with the group. Everyone gets it again but Steve. He doesn't know what to do. I explain it again, sketch out the power point presentation, give it to him and tell him to take what I've written and put it on the slides and bring it the next class when it's due.

Two days before it's due, he emails me a written version of the slides because he can't figure out how to email Power Point.

And he's creatively interpreted it for us.

I look at it, become furious, start laughing hysterically, and hit up my techie boyfriend at the time for a copy of Power Point and end up doing the thing myself.

Class comes around, no one in my group gets it still, so I give the history of the author to one kid and do the presentation and answer all the questions myself, with the rest of my group standing to one side.

What we (I) did the presentation on was a background of Strauss, a summation of the theory, and then application of the theory on Goldilocks and the three bears. Basically, lining up the three experiences of Goldilocks with each member of the Bear family, the story can be interpreted by Strauss' method by saying that Goldilocks tried on the different roles in the family (mother, father, child) and determined that the child role currently fitted her best. Very simple.

The creative interpretation by Steve that I received was:

Goldilocks eats the porridge, blah blah blah (insert tripe here).
Goldilocks sits in the chairs, blah blah blah (tripe).
Goldilocks sleeps in the beds, blah blah blah (more tripe).

His conclusion: children should not sleep in adult beds because they are growing and need posturepedic beds for different support for their backs.

That was when I knew that I should never have majored in Sociology.


  1. I'd like to say that things get better for very bright people as they move into even higher levels of academia, but the truth is...idiots are everywhere.

  2. I'm not thrilled with group work at the best of times...I'd rather live and die by my own skills than carry or be carried...but university was particularly frustrating because I was older than most of my classmates.

    I remember begging one prof to let me work on my own.

    Dam "Does Not Play Well With Others" Brodribb