Skip to content

Others Question My Education

October 1, 2013

While debating in YouTube comments, user Faken Name replied to me with the following:

The college plantation got you. So many young people get saddle with a mountain of debt for an education that is useless in today’s economy.

Most people would be better off learning a trade at a community college, cheaper too and you’ll have something that is wanted.

I haven’t really delved into the issue of who should and should not go to college, but the idea that I would have been better off going to a trade school is patently absurd. In addition to my medical issues that I detail on the about page, there is simply no question that college was the correct course for me, specifically vis-à-vis trade school, and would be the route I took even if I had it to do over again.

There was never any doubt that I would attend college, and not due to any sort of family tradition. My father’s father ran a diner, and my father got his education via the G.I. Bill, having served in the United States Air force during the peace time of the early 1960s, doing such things as protecting Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was preaching in a church. He told me that the troop had to stand in a circle around the church and were told Dr. King was there only after the incident was over. My mother attended a teacher’s college in New Jersey, even though she didn’t want to be a teacher, and she never finished. The most notable incident I heard from her about this period was that John Denver was once in the common area of her dorm. Family is nothing to do with why or where I attended college.

I recall when I was little when I asked my mom about how far the grades go, she followed twelfth grade with college, and followed college with medical school as the highest level of education. I knew from the time I was very young that I did not want to be a doctor. I strongly disliked going to my pediatrician (with good reason, considering that he prescribed medicine that destroyed the appearance of my teeth), and knew even then that I didn’t want a job that dealt that closely with other people’s bodies.

As previously mentioned on this blog, I went on welfare for the first time after I completed graduate school. This sort of reversal was common in my childhood, partially self-induced. I was reading before I was toilet trained. My earliest memories are around age 2, including the taste of the tetracycline suspension with its horrible faux-grape flavor that was so atrocious it got me a spoonful of Lady Borden vanilla ice cream every time I took it. I chose the grape flavoring myself, but it was so horrible that it didn’t affect my taste for grapes, grape juice, crape candy, or grape soda. My non-drinking of wine has to do with the alcohol, not the grapes. One of the major tools in my learning to read was my fascination with the Wonder Books abridgment of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, illustrated by Tom Sinnickson. My mother did not allow me to see the movie until I was in first grade on account of it being “too scary,” so Oz was always a literary experience for me.

That I was reading before I entered pre-school is beyond doubt. I became a parlor tirck to the teachers at my nursery school. They would pull me away from what I wanted to do (which was, very often, reading) to read out of Fun with Dick and Jane while sitting next to them, which I utterly loathed, finding it too simplistic and dull compared to the other picture books we had available, including books from Dr. Seuss’s “I Can Read” series (not all of which were by Seuss). There was even one called “Over the Rainbow,” which detailed the journey to Glinda that most adaptations omit (possibly the 1980 Corrine J. Naden adaptation illustrated by Bill Nelson, although I don’t remember the art being so simplistic), but it was difficult to get hold of it because it was so popular. I do remember once getting them to let me read out of a book about elephants for them, but that was the exception. One of my favorite moments on Doogie Howser, M.D. was when Vinnie, making a documentary about Doogie’s life, interviewed Doogie’s pre-school teacher. She found him an enormous problem and did not like him. Her most memorable line is “I have never had a three-year-old call me a bureaucrat.” “Bureaucrat” was not in my speaking vocabulary, at least, although I may have heard the term.

I was given a test upon entering kindergarten. I was alone in a dark, windowless room that looked like a large coat closet. The only thing I still remember about the testing material was that I had to sequence several comic strip stories, one of which had a guy in prison stripes breaking into a house. The test results basically found me a genius. I was way ahead of the class and difficult to control because I was bored. In addition to spending part of my time in first grade, a fifth grader named Cam was brought in to help me work on a buzzer kit, apart from the rest of the class. The fact that we never got it to work for more than a split-second seemed to bode that engineering would not be my field. I remember when my kindergarten teacher suggested Cam, I was very agreeable, and said that since I didn’t know many fifth graders except the ones on the bus, it did not make much difference to me given what I knew at the time.

In first grade, I was sent both to second grade part-time and to the gifted and talented program, which normally was open only to people in grade 2 and up. As far as my mother is concerned, this was entirely a result of my bad behavior, rather than my bad behavior being the result of boredom from lack of intellectual stimulation.

My parents had attempted to get me into a special school, of which there were only two such in the district, using a program called Individually Guided Education (IGE), prior to my entrance to kindergarten, but there had been a waiting list. My mom loves to reiterate the story of the principal of my previous elementary school being relieved that I would not be attending second grade, because I had been such a problem, such as the time when Robbie Goodwin started messing with the headphone jacks as we listened to a record of “Rumpelstiltskin” (which I thought sure had Judy Graubart of The Electric Company as the princess). I tried to stop him, then put my hand up for assistance. the teacher grabbed my hand and dragged me to my desk, and demanded that I put my head town. At this point, I took scraps of paper and put it into the heat vent as a sort of revenge, which got me a paddling. On the first day of school. my introversion led me to select the one desk in the room that was not grouped into a table with other desks. My mother was convinced that I was in the lone seat as a punishment when she learned of the fact at a parent-teacher conference. It was, in fact, in first grade when I first knew that I wanted to be a director, although I did not know for many years what it was that a director did other than that they did something in film and television from a point that you don’t see, and had no clue what distinguished a director from a producer or any other behind the scenes jobs. I was thinking of my classmates cast in various roles in stories that I arranged and guided.

Once I was in the IGE school, starting in second grade, there was no more talk of me skipping any grades, because they clustered us into groups based on how well we did on placement tests. I was placed in the advanced group for reading and the regular group for math, and that pretty much set the stage for the rest of my academic career. This school had something called Young Author’s Day, and it was at this point that I seriously wanted to write, although the picture book I wrote and drew, “The Non-Spooky Scarecrow” was thoroughly an L. Frank Baum knock-off. I hope the lone existing copy still exists for the sake of the artwork, although it’s nothing impressive and very inconsistent. I know I had it long after second grade, unlike some of the material I wrote in later elementary school years, which my parents discarded and presumably went into the Indianapolis city incinerator.

The school library had the “white editions” of the fourteen L. Frank Baum Oz books, and between the list of forty books in their copy of Tik-Tok of Oz, the only one of the volumes that listed the post-Baum Oz books, and listed them by the other authors who wrote them, and the Spider-Man comics I read with different credited authors, I was fascinated at the idea of contributing something in this manner to a shared set of stories. I became convinced that my passion in life was to grow up and write fiction. My test scores bore this out. My marks were always extremely high on the language arts portions of the standardized tests we took (either California or Iowa prior to sixth grade, ISTEP in grades 6 and 10, of which I noticed little difference from the previous tests other than the name), and my math scores were decent but quite a bit lower. My chief intellectual rival from grade 2 on was Troy Van Voorhis, now a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), and when grade 11’s result came out and showed my spelling score as 100, when there wasn’t even a column for the third digit, I was surprised. As I recall, my math computation score was 73, and my mathematical concepts score was 86. Troy had me beat there, but he didn’t have me beat at spelling, and we were about the same on grammar, reading comprehension, and so forth, none of which were lower on mine than 98. My total average was 97%, and Troy would brag that his was 98, which was the score we both shared on the Test of Cognitive Skills, which is essentially an IQ test, only it gives you a percentile rather than an IQ number. Troy and I were in opposite rounds on the school academic team, with math whiz Josh Horstman making up for my weaknesses on the math questions, which I was eventually forbidden to answer entirely.

On the SATs, Josh scored a perfect 800 on the math portion, but I did better than he did on the verbal, with a score of 620. I don’t know what Troy got–the last class in which I remember us interacting was 11th grade French X, which was pretty infamous, thanks to my having an unusually good memory of things people had done in the past, possibly trained into me by my mother’s constant reiteration of all the bad things I had ever done, with no memory of the good. My math score was 490, which, at the time, was the high end of average. My SAT scores are incomparable to current SAT scores. The current maximum is 2400, but it was only 1600 at the time. My verbal scores were so high above average that I got a lot of expensive liberal arts colleges trying to court me as a possible student. I was still in the accelerated (X) program, but my grades had fallen quite a bit because of my aversion to busy work; although I was certainly capable of achieving high grades, it generally happened only when I was being intellectually stimulated, and not when I was forced to go through tedium. Still, I consistently got As in Zoology X, which was considered a very hard course, although I found it to be simply a mixture of reading and listening comprehension and memory, and I would waver between As and Bs in Advanced Biology. My grades were high enough that I was not required to take the final exam in Advanced Biology, but I wanted to get an A on the exam to up my chances, which I did, although I heard from people in the other section that Mr. Russell was planning to give me an automatic A just for being willing to take the test to improve my grade. Even so, a disastrous problem with my 11th grade English teacher helped to lower my final high school GPA to a 1.96, which my mother would insist was a D average, convinced that 2.0 and 3.0 were the bottom of C and B, respectively, rather than the exact center.

No one was courting me to go to college for sciences based on my high grades, presumably because of my average SAT math score. My chemistry grade fell when I was switched to a different section with a different teacher and completely different (and far less college preparatory) emphases in the curriculum, and I never took physics because I had not completed the math requirements–although I attempted them, I failed out of pre-calculus in the first semester. Still, I had expressed neither interest nor aptitude in anything resembling vocational training, which I still don’t have, and no one suggested it to me except maybe my mom in one of her tirades about how she though that I was going to flunk out of school. Fixing a motor vehicle, for example, is something I would rather pay somebody to do if I had need of it. Why would I want to get in another person’s way of a job in terms of the skilled trades? I didn’t know of the physical challenges I would soon be encountering, although I should have had an inkling that something was wrong when I would walk to the bowling alley to play Street Fighter II and then realize that I had been standing so much that I didn’t particularly want to walk home, although I generally had to, since in those days carrying a mobile phone made the administration assume that you were a drug dealer.

I entered college taking Biology K101-Plants for majors, and I did decently; I did even better in K103-Animals, which I took to please my parents, using the money my maternal grandmother put in Pioneer Fund when I was a baby to pay for my college education. I had seen enough insipid film and television that only Freddi Stevens-Jacobi coming to my 10th grade English class and promoting her one semester film study course was really an inspiring moment, and in her class, seeing Citizen Kane really showed me the power of film as an effective method of art and communication that my literary snobbery had not yet admitted. Although I was taking quite a bit of literature classes, I was also taking quite a lot of film classes. I knew what I wanted to do, and it was confirmed when I failed genetics and microbiology, and got Ds in ecology and the second part of first-year algebra. These pulled my cumulative GPA down to a 2.89. Needless to say, I was getting substantially more intellectual stimulation at the university than I was in high school. I ultimately declared a first major in communication (which contained theatre and media production courses) and a second major in English (which included the academic film study courses as well as literature and creative writing). My mother told me “Do what you love and the money will follow, but choose to love something else, like accounting.” That’s not how it works, and as I mentioned, I’ve met accounting majors in the shelter, and the first person I ever met who I knew lived (and died of a throat obstruction) in a homeless shelter was an engineer named Vijay Patel, who was a congregant at Unity of Indianapolis. Eli Lilly was using his cleaning formula at the time of his death, but he was told repeatedly that they had no open positions for him, and his money was all in an account that was not allowed to leave India, so he had no way to return home. Contrary to what my mother believes, because I had to stay on a full year and change in order to complete all degree-specific requirements (I had enough credits to graduate without a major at the end of four years, but I was already too far on my way with two that it was not even brought up as a possibility by anyone in the faculty or administration), I had to take out student loans to do this. I didn’t worry too much, because they faculty kept assuring us that people with English and communication degrees (depending upon which department they work in) do just about anything, usually starting in something with lower than average pay and ending with something with some of the highest pay. I took out additional student loans to take an experimental graduate film course in the Spring of 2000 with Dennis Bingham, who was a better professor than any of the film faculty I encountered when I went to graduate school for real.

My mother and the imbeciles who attack me on YouTube can say what they want about my major being worthless, but communications is still being touted as a high demand degree (http://education.yahoo.net/articles/in_demand_degrees_in_2013.htm), although I see no evidence for that, and English and my graduate major, cinema and media, never come up on lists of least lucrative majors. On the other hand, had I stayed with biology, I am certain I would have gone into zoology, where my strongest scientific interest lies (aside from perhaps paleontology), which, as of 2012, was considered one of the worst majors for obtaining employment (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/22/job-market-college-graduates_n_1443738.html), so even if I’d been able to go in the direction that pleased my parents, I would still likely have lost, especially considering how many people out there are better than me. then my mother simply would have blamed me again for going in a direction I loved instead of hated (e.g. medicine), where I would probably be trounced in the job marketplace for exactly that reason. It has also been demonstrated that people with STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) majors are not having an easier time than anyone else finding employment, simply that employers are not finding people with the experience they want because they went into hiring freezes earlier in the decade (http://www.usnews.com/news/stem-solutions/articles/2013/09/09/are-we-misinterpreting-the-stem-crisis?s_cid=rss:are-we-misinterpreting-the-stem-crisis&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#comments), just as what happened in the copywriting industry, which was destroyed and replaced by such fradulent organizations as Examiner, Patch, and Elance, which pay less than $10 for a piece that it may take several hours to research and write.

What is clear from this is that there is no question that I should have been college-bound, as opposed to trade school. If anything, the problem is that I’m getting drowned out by people who went to college that should not have, but I am certainly not one of them. Such people either gamed the system, as noted in the Peter Capelli article, or there are just so many applicants that people less qualified are getting their resumes read and mine ignored in the luck of the draw. Such jobs get so many applications that many are simply deleted without consideration while which ever ones are newest in the inbox are the ones that get interviewed, meaning the cliché about the early bird is not a truthful assessment of the situation. I have had to administrate such employer calls in previous positions, and the amount of luck involved in whether one’s resume is read is extraordinary. I didn’t think it was right then, but I had to do what I was told. I have visualized it for years as a pebble that keeps getting buried under multiple repavings of a road. The quality of the pebble hasn’t changed; it’s simply been overshadowed through no fault of its own, the pavements of the road being the new waves of college graduates with every passing year, all fighting for a supply of jobs that is clearly not enough, purely out of corporate greed. It’s been proven that fewer people than ever are doing more work than ever, but the people who do that work are not the ones seeing the rewards.(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/sunday-review/americas-productivity-climbs-but-wages-stagnate.html?_r=0) Much of this is caused by the fact that unions have lost power in the blue collar fields, and never got any traction in the white collar fields. This puts all the power in the hands of the employer, as Capelli’s article notes. Without the ability to collective bargain, there is an extreme power disadvantage in the model, one that the right-wing loves and the left-wing loathes, and regardless of political party, the right-wing has been in charge for pretty much my entire lifetime. Barack Obama, for example, is farther right than Ronald Reagan ever was (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cenk-uygur/who-is-more-conservative_b_638947.html). Another big part of the problem is that neoliberalism, which is really a form of conservatism in spite of its name, has infected every president in my lifetime, with the possible exception of Carter. This is a race to the bottom, particularly if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is passed, which could happen as early as later this month. Globalization is simply an excuse for businesses to pay the people who do the actual work a non-living wage while those who invest in the business reap the vast majority of the profits. This is the evil of capitalism. People who have money leech work from those without at an unsustainably low wage. The part of the money that they don’t hoard they use to turn the working poor against those who cannot find work and externalize their own laziness onto those who are struggling and are the most motivated to work, but are unwilling to do work that benefits no one but the rich. That’s why you’ll find us volunteering, working for no money, refuting the claims of laziness that Fox Propaganda Channel and other outlets try, often successfully to make the trade school grads and high school dropouts believe.

I found a woman who works in the finance office at Project Renewal via Twitter when she complained that the air conditioner was broken when the summer heat came back in mid-September, telling her that she now knows how the residents feel every day. She said that she had no way to affect the aspects of Project Renewal about which I complained in my review at GreatNonprofits.org. she basically ended the conversation with homilies about how no one can ever take my education away. Even though the binder got damaged at the point I was carrying my degrees around at the backpack, they’re always going to be in the records of the school even if the worst occurred and the contents of my storage unit were put to auction (which is not likely to happen, since HRA will pay for it again if it reaches the point that I qualify for welfare), it’s not particularly reassuring when you know of nothing more that you can do to improve your situation, even though I do think that I am a better person than I would be had I not gotten my education.

I draw the conclusion that my homelessness is entirely the fault of other people. I see nothing I could have done that would have seriously changed my situation or made the job market any less of the roulette wheel that it has been since net job growth went to zero in December 1999, the month that I earned my bachelor’s degree (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/01/AR2010010101196.html?hpid=topnews). In this article, The Washington Post regards the aughts as a “lost decade,” which I see as a lost decade in my life. I still feel like I’m in my mid-twenties, and it’s fortuante that I usually hear that I look it, as well. It doesn’t help that it’s been nearly ten years since I finished my most recent full-length stage play, and one always has more control of one’s scripts in theatre than in film. Based on my experience submitting my play to nearly every outlet possible to an unagented writer of full-length scripts in 2007, it seems that a sociopolitical work such as Misused Minds has no hope of being produced in such a venue, and the venues that do take such a work require an agent. Thus far, no agent has been willing to read Misused Minds. The YouTube trolls draw the conclusion that this means that the play is no good, which is an irrational conclusion under the circumstances. It is impossible to assess the quality of an unread play; therefore, an agent refusing to read it means nothing more than that the agent refused to read it. Again, this is something entirely in the court of the other. As long as I persist with due diligence, the fault for my lack of success logically falls on the part of the other. The Unity church does not grow as quickly as other religious movements because of the level of responsibility that it puts on the individual rather than on the whims of supernatural beings. By believing in a God of principle and a devil that is strictly metaphorical, we see that we get what we believe. If I did not sense that there was a grain of truth to this, I would have stopped attending years ago and gone the atheist route, because I cannot believe in supernatural beings presiding over human fate. This further refutes the notion of laziness on my part as impacting my lack of employment. I am always looking to make corrections, which comes with the territory of being an expert proofreader, including within myself. At this point, I simply don’t know what the corrections are anymore. I no longer hear God. I heard Rev. Paul Tenaglia say a few weeks ago that God is always silent during the test. He was quoting something else, but a Google search shows numerous Christian sites using the metaphor, but none with identical language for me to attribute the quote. If God doesn’t have something great in store for me soon, and things continue to get worse (I write this on day one of the government shutdown, so I won’t be getting my October SNAP benefits if it persists another week), it will certainly make me question whether the non-rational could ever be correct (in Unity, I’ve heard it said that the rational is limited and often wrong, which is not to say that it is useless), since the rational–every bit of evidence–is pointing to my homelessness being completely the fault of others.

One Comment
  1. Galaxian permalink

    “It is impossible to assess the quality of an unread play.” I suppose that’s true. What if none of the Athenians wanted to review “Seven Against Thebes?” Would they have sent Aeschylus packing? If it’s the Unity based at Lee’s Summit, Missouri–it might be a pretty interesting religion. I’ve been to their campus there once, about 40 years ago. Best of luck–I’m not really optimistic about the social welfare system in this country, which I assume is on its way to being completely disbanded. But that’s another story. Anyway, industriousness or laziness should not be a criterion for whether people sleep under the viaducts in the world’s richest nation. Best of Luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: