Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

But I Was Too Busy Trying to Have my Own

Source: Arctic Fox, on Pinterest

Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.

My parents had dreams for me.

I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.

Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?

And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)

Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.

And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.

So who’s the real dummy now?

My Spectacular Failure at Education

After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.

At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.

In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.

In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.

I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.

My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.

College, Take 2

I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.

It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.

And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.

But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.

It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.

So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.

Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.

Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….

Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.

Livin’ La Vida Loca

So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.

But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.

Stay safe, my friends.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”—Albert Einstein

“But she has so much potential!” was the rallying cry my teachers used with my parents. “We just don’t understand why she’s not living up to it.”

And so began my first year in junior high, back in the olden days before middle school was even a concept. 7th and 8th grades. The good old days of assigning classes based on gender rather than a student’s interests. To this day I maintain that at some point before graduation, students should be required to take classes in what we used to call home economics and basic automotive mechanics.

I don’t understand turning students out into the world when they don’t know how to sew a button onto a shirt, or how to change a flat tire.

But that’s the way it was in the early 1960s. Girls took Home Ec and boys took Shop.

Oh, I knew I had potential; I didn’t need to be told that by someone who wasn’t as smart as I was. Because I was left alone in a guidance counselor’s office just long enough to look through the folder containing ME and seeing what my IQ was, I had written proof that I was smarter than most of my fellow students and probably most of my teachers as well.

I still couldn’t change a flat tire, or tell you the difference between 0 and 0000 grit sandpaper, but I could boil the hell out of a quart of water!

Potential don’t mean fuck-all when you’re bored by all of your classes.
High school was even worse. With the exception of two years of Spanish and a semester of Texas History, I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t already known in junior high. So yeah, I was bored to tears.

I was a student with a measured IQ above 160 and I was expected to do well in classes that were geared more towards the future farmers, ranchers, and homemakers than they were towards students who were planning on going on to universities or colleges.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It’s a wonderful I can think at all.”
Paul Simon could just as easily written those lines about me as he did for himself.

But then, suddenly, COLLEGE!

And the complete opposite of high school. It was taken for granted that you knew certain things, had taken specific classes to prepare you for “the real world.” After four years of bluffing my way through classes, I was expected to actually do stuff!

I was finally in a world where I was expected to perform. To achieve results. And here I was, a person with no study habits. I hadn’t needed to develop any, because I had always been able to ace all of my classes without so much as opening a text book.

I felt as if I was a fish trying to climb a tree. Stupid.

Needless to say, my budding college career ended at the end of my freshman year. My parents weren’t about to keep shelling out money for a D student.

I still only have an Associates degree. No matter how many times I’ve tried, I still don’t fit the college mold.

If only I had been able to take Wood Shop in high school. But I was smarter than that.

I had potential.