Don’t you know he never shirks

13 03 2019

I could give a shit about the Ivy League.

They’re good schools, no question, but out of the over 3000 institutions of higher education in the US, they educate a relatively small number of students. And while I don’t doubt that those Ivied students receive a mighty fine education, I also don’t doubt that those same students could receive an equally fine education at a non-Ivy.

No, what matters is not that you graduate with a BA or BS, but that you graduate from Harvard or Yale.

So be it.

(When I was younger I was so overawed by the Ivies that not only did I not even consider applying there, I was impressed that a friend at Madison had a friend who went to Harvard. I had her get me a sweatshirt when she visited him there.

That awe had diminished by the time I lived in the Boston area. I occasionally walked through Harvard Yard and. . . it’s very nice. I like college campuses, and the Harvard campus is. . . very nice. But, really, that’s all it is: another college campus.)

Anyway, this is all only adjacent to the SCANDAL of rich people paying off craven people in order to guarantee their rich kids a spot at their preferred university table. Yes, in a land in which a rich man can legally “donate” $2.5 million to get his dim son into Harvard, it is truly shocking that rich people will illegally “donate” somewhat less to get their heirs and heiresses into universities of their choosing.

This is mostly just an irritating/amusing combo, but the bit that does truly chafe was pointed out by someone on Twitter who, like me, attended a public university. I can’t find the tweet-storm, but he noted that the real damn crime was the fact that public universities have been starved for funds and that the mighty fine educations one can receive at such institutions is increasingly out of reach for too many.

My first semester at Madison, in 1984, cost $500, 550—something like that; by my last semester, it was over $900. For the fall of 2019? $10,555.52 for a Wisconsin resident. Also, neither the SAT nor the ACT was required, nor, I believe, did I have to write an essay; in my recollection (which, y’know, may not be reliable), it was a two-page application. As a Wisconsin resident with a decent GPA, I was in.

To apply today? SAT & ACT scores (minus the writing portion) are required, along with two essays, a letter of recommendation, and rigorous academic preparation.

I did not have rigorous academic preparation, and while I did take both the SAT and the ACT, I didn’t prepare at all and was hungover for at least one of them.

I did fine at Madison, and graduated with relatively little debt.

Now, maybe all the testing and essaying and whatnot serve a real academic purpose, but as a first-generation college student who went to a high school where maybe 10 percent of my graduating class went to college, I’d have had damn little guidance on how to navigate all of those requirements.

Ugh, it’s late, and once again my points are skittering away from me, but I want to reiterate that the damned shame about higher ed in the US is not that a few rich people are gaming the system, but that that same system—entrance into which is seen as necessary to have any kind of shot at a decent life—has increasingly been turned into an expensive game in its own right.


I try to imagine another planet, another sun

4 03 2019

JT introduced me to Rickie Lee Jones back in Sellery A.

Those were the days of vinyl and hanging out between classes and Terri, Terri, you gotta listen to this, the needle placed just so on the first track:

And as that fades, the notes slowing into silence, this kicks in:

Eighteen in a dorm room in Madison, the sun flooding in, and just JT and me, just listening.

The lyrics scatter across the music, a mosaic less of sense than mood, and then there’s this:

I’m not asking so much

I try to imagine another planet, another sun

Where I don’t look like me

And everything I do matters

To be nothing and everything, to run away and be fully there; I’ve been scampering across that teeter-totter ever since.

I wonder if that’s why, even though I’m middle-aged, I don’t quite feel grown: isn’t growing up about managing, getting past, that all-or-nothing? To come to terms with one’s presence in the world?

I haven’t, yet. Over 50 years old and I haven’t, yet.

It’s not all bad; it’s not even mostly bad. It’s okay, it’s fine.

But how can that be enough? Shouldn’t there be something more to this, one, life? I want that something more, to leave my fingerprints on something beyond me—not (just) to be remembered, but to have known something beyond myself.

I used to, back in those days. It wasn’t complicated: there were things I wanted and so went for. Not everything, (not everyone. . .) but a lot, and maybe it was running but it felt toward, not away.

Well, then the ground gave way, and gravity was suspended. Took a long time to learn how to walk again.

But it’s also been awhile since I’ve been walking, and I know, I know, I’ve written variations on this theme too many times before, but my steps don’t always reach the ground and I could use a bit of gravity.