Friday, June 29, 2007

Shiny, Happy Certificates

I'm a scribble right now, an angry and uncontrolled ballpoint rage across the college-ruled page of my life.

I'm taking a class this summer. It started yesterday, and I did not quite affiliate with the teacher. I'm a syllabus girl. Course descriptions are like cashmere to me--they are soft and luxurious and right. When a syllabus and a course description don't match, I feel snagged. I feel like I've been put through the spin cycle. I'm all rung out.

And it didn't help that my professor is a hobbiest philosopher. Within a four minute span, we were the recipients of 27 references (tallied across the margin of my notebook) to Machiavelli, Socrates, Martin Luther, Locke, and Mark Twain (?!!!). Don't get me wrong--my heart thumps over critical thinking, but it all just seemed a bit forced, a bit pompous. One second, the man is telling us that IQs are without merit, the next, he manages to fling his own into the discussion. When a woman shared the name of the facility where she worked (during the cursory introductions), our teacher pointedly asked if so-and-so was still in charge of the program. When the woman nodded, the man rolled his eyes, chuckled self-servingly, and muttered, "I'm not even gonna go there."

This is a drive-by class, meaning that it will be over in 6 more sessions. 6 more, 4 hour sessions. The readings (a compilation of the man's own writings, as well as chapters and chapters of fine print text from a multi-volume book on par with the Physician's Desk Reference) are generally over 100 pages/night, and each is the catalyst for a 2-4 page, APA style paper. So basically, I will be coming home, reading, writing, going to bed, getting up, and returning to class, and unlike most of the other folks taking the course, I don't even have a job to wedge into my schedule. And that doesn't even begin to address the 20 page research paper due in a week and a half.

So much for swimming pools and poetry.

I talked to Lou about dropping this class. He reminded me that it's required for the program. I railed about the silliness of the program. Then, I consulted with our own resident philosopher--5 year old, Mac--who has the gift of being able to approach most scenarios and decision making grids with a fresh eye and an unjudging outlook.

"I'm in this program, Mac," I said, "and I've taken three courses so far, but I have two more to go, and you know how I went to my class tonight? Well, I really don't like the teacher, so-"

"Is she mean?" he asked.

"It's a guy," I said, "and no, no, he's not mean . . . he's just a fool . . . and I don't think I'm going to be learning anything I'm supposed to be learning, but if I finish this class and then, the next one, I get a certificate-"

His face lit up, as it does when all things shiny or new are described (think trophies, treasure chests, jewels, and apparently now, certificates). I attempted to bring it back around.

"But I hate this class and I think I would rather quit it so I can do fun things and play."

A cloud over my boy's sunny face. "Don't do that, mom," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because then, you won't get your certificate."

"But shouldn't I do things that I love, like playing?"

"Go to school, mom. You can play when you're done."

And with that (and a sigh), I've resigned myself to finishing this course. I don't want my five year old to think I'm a quitter, and I believe that, in the long run, the lesson coming out of this class will be beyond the content described in the course description or syllabus:

1. There are pompous, asshole professors everywhere, and sometimes you are stuck with them;
2. Five years old are the smartest people on earth;
3. A test of something--character? integrity? drive?--is how you function when the situation isn't ideal or easy;
4. Work hard, then play;
5. Certificates are pretty.


deirdre said...

Oh, I'm groaning with you. It sounds like a tough way to spend a chunk of time, but then it will be done and you'll be one step closer to your goal.

Five-year-olds are so wise - they cut straight to the chase.

Thanks for sending me your new address.

Cate said...

Oh, D, thanks for being my first comment (and thanks for asking for the address!)!

Yeah, my little men certainly do keep me straight!


ell said...

Mac is one wise little guy. (You realize he's giving you your own advice don't you? -- Just without the filtering (read excuses) that goes on in the adult brain). :-D

But I do feel for you.

Thanks for sending me your new address.

Cate said...

Thanks, Ell. Mac is definitely my wee sage (my filtering mechanism has a huge "Needs Repaired" sign slapped across it)!. Thanks for asking for my address! Have a good weekend! xo