A friend of the family returned home over the holidays from her undergraduate studies at Boston University complaining that a professor had baselessly accused her of cheating on a test. She said that she’d had to get pretty aggro about her high school academic background to get the prof to simmer down about this bullshit. We’ll call this family friend Real-Life Rosalita, for reasons that will become apparent to the keen Jersey seaboarder in short order. Any additional ethnic or geographical inferences about the young lady, however, will be your damn fault, not mine. It ain’t me, lawd; Fat Cracka ain’t on the hook for any of this.
The professor’s basis for accusing Real-Life Rosalita of cheating was that she couldn’t possibly know so much about music theory. There’s an old Anglo-Saxon saying for what the good professor did: pulling it out of her ass. She had no reason to be familiar with the extent of R-LR’s academic or intellectual background. Universities, in principle at least, recruit students with diverse interests and talents, even if in practice many of these turn out to be chugging Natty Ice, glassing a poor schmuck for looking like the guy from UB40, and the recreational anal administration of hard drugs. BRETT MICHAEL WHADDUP DAWG. These are some of the Rumsfeldian known unknowns: no professor is clairvoyant enough to know what a given student knows about anything in particular from outside the stony gates, but every professor should have the common sense to assume that it might be something, even something impressive.
Additionally, women can be freshmen, too, and Real-Life Rosalita is merely a freshman. We should all be outraged that she was held responsible for such venial sins. Johnnie Cochrane, pray for us. If I, Atticus Binch, have a fit about this shit, oyez, my good twit, you must acquit.
Alas, this isn’t nearly the overreach it should be. 100-level survey courses are not the front line in the war for academic honor or national character, and anyone with a PhD, let alone a faculty appointment at a four-year school on the T system, who insists that they are is an embarrassing fool. That isn’t what it takes to get Charlie off, lady. CHAHLEE! Real-Life Rosalita mentioned that she is considering enrolling in a BU survey course on, I shit ye not, science. She’s the freshman, not the provost; I dare say, the academic degradation is coming from higher on the totem pole and, cheat or no cheat, she is not its channel.
She didn’t cheat, though. I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure. She’s a decent amateur musician with a number of K-12 music courses under her belt, and she’s no dummy. It’s a great deal easier for me to believe that one of her professors is an insane asshole. That sabbatical temp nutjob who called me into his office and violently cursed me out for getting a 7/20 on his dumbass research prompt on Hindu something-or-other convinced me, probably for life, to err on the side of student accusers in such situations, all else being equal. I wasn’t the one complaining that I’d gotten a shitty grade for doing a shitty job; he was. Dude was completely unhinged, and it wasn’t the first incident I’d witnessed indicating his unfitness to teach.
I suspect that I could have secured approval to withdraw from the course after the normal cutoff date and an internal no-contact order from the college by serving the college counsel’s office with a sworn affidavit describing how this professor had harassed me and providing my notice of intent to sue the college if he ever crossed me again under its auspices. I could have demanded that they make a basic effort to keep him the fuck away from me.
The problem was that I was intimidated as all hell. I had been raised to tremble before dissatisfied teachers and professors like a sinner before a pantheon of vengeful petty gods. And I was far from the only one raised that way. Moral panicking about entitled students and their helicopter parents demanding A grades for F-quality work get the attention. That’s bullshit, but it isn’t particularly representative bullshit. Plenty of students and parents are quietly cowed by the whims of bumptious faculty shitheads. Hardly a word is spoken of them, but they’re legion.
The line between those families who tremble before teachers desperately hoping for the mercy their chopper-parented brat needs to thrive and those that march into the office and angrily demand their due is a thin and yet fuzzy one. There’s a whole lot of class baggage determining its exact contours, subtleties that I can vaguely discern but lack the energy to contemplate; in short, it seems to be a case of different kinds of bourgeois folks having different kinds of strokes.
Again, that wasn’t what I was doing. I figured that 7/20 was in the range of what I deserved for my shitty effort, since anything from 0 up to 12 or 13 would have been reasonable. And again, this wackjob prof was the one flying off the hinges and yelling at ME. I was scrupulously refusing to make a scene about how unbelievably atrocious this fucker was at teaching–supposedly a core competency for a seminar instructor at a liberal arts college, but the deal seemed to be that the department was willing to suffer this dud for two years until the eminence grise he was replacing could return from his study abroad assignment in Europe–and this son of a bitch still had to lash out at me like an absolute maniac.
To finally blunt by damn point, this asshole was an excellent object lesson in what NOT to be as a professor. The guy was supposedly ruing his invitation to relocate to Indiana for the balance of his career and professionally suckle the Midwest’s stout balls, Tate: bleak enough, not a situation I envied, but also not my fucking problem. (The gag is still good, and equally awful.) (Ooh, I said “gag.” Giggity.) I wasn’t why this dipshit had a crappy life, and neither, as best I could tell, were my classmates. We all conceded him a huge amount of moral hazard to be an emotionally volatile and abusive fuckup around students. A healthy community would have found one way or another to intervene and tell him in the bluntest, broadest possible terms that he did not have the latitude to take out his frustrations on students just because he was having an anticipatory Hoosier huff, or for any other reason, because instructors are NOT allowed to treat students like that.
I don’t actually know whether his coming banishment to Muncie was why this guy was being enough of a prick for Sexy Male Nurse Lynn Majors to give him one. It was openly prejudicial gossip from a classmate I knew to be a bit rich and stuck-up. In any event, this sort of petty, emotionally overwrought bullshit is common in academia, and what I’ve described is hardly the worst of it. Much of the celebrated rigor of academic life is frank hazing, but it should come as little surprise when so many schools refuse to dissolve fraternities for being RICO-ready criminal gangs just because they commit manslaughter from time to time and God only knows how many rapes.
Any academic who works out shits issues, as we like to call them, on undergraduates is a fucking loser. I’m sorry, by which I mean, I am absolutely not sorry. That’s the new gender-neutral third-person singular, by the way, although the singular they is still okay in the comments; the literary standards for comment publication are that there are no literary standards. Nah, on second thought, that’s unfair. One of the amazing things about Online is that I never read anything as brain-scrambled and illiterate as the student papers I peer-critiqued as an undergraduate. I’m on here looking up Wesley Willis records and shit, and maybe once a month, if even that, do I come across anything as embarrassingly fucked up and lame as the shit my peers were turning in for bachelor’s-level academic credit.
Let’s be fucking real here. Undergraduate applicants aren’t admitted for their compositional skills. Have you ever read JFK’s Harvard application essay? There are only two conclusions to draw from that happy horseshit: 1) the boy wasn’t too bright, or 2) all the money in the world for tutors and ghostwriters and the best his family could come up with was THAT. He wanted to honor Harvard as an honorable Harvard Man. Don’t we all?
We’d be out of our minds to expect the average undergraduate to be Pynchon or, like, Didion or Chaucer or some shit. Good God. They’re all of 23 or maybe 25 by the time they graduate, and that’s if they’re slow starters in life. FAT CRACKA REPRESENT. Some of their writing is crap? Gee, one doesn’t fucking say. They didn’t do the reading? Maybe it sucks ass, too. A bunch of harried, sophomoric, economically dependent older adolescents who’ve spent their lives to date jumping through hoops and kissing ass to get ahead aren’t all going to be competent writers. That expectation is completely nuts. Even without the writing assignments undergraduates are routinely overscheduled to the point of exhaustion and self-harm, and it’s impossible to find anyone at the student health center to publicly cry foul about this arrangement. (Hmm. Ricebowls to fill?)
There’s entirely too much pretending that this shit has deep meaning and isn’t just another series of show dog stunts, but even the most sycophantic college students realize on some level that their usual writing prompts are absurdist exercises in futility and wasted effort. If the faculty want their students to develop the discernment between art and garbage, would it kill them to have some themselves? Are we really expected to pretend that Theodore Dreiser could write worth a damn? James Joyce? Mick please, was that cunt even lucid? Maybe we uneducated little twerps don’t always show up for our schooling with the best taste ourselves, but one thing that bears mentioning about the Wesleyan songbook is that it has storylines that can be followed with some basic context. It’s usually, like, Harry Caray karate-chopped my ass down the El stairs at Addison; RED LINE!
We hear an awful lot of bitching and moaning these days about how uppity proles have unsheathed the long knives against the experts. I cannot fucking fathom why. Just offhand, I can recall incidents in which teachers, professors, or periacademic authority figures arrogantly declared that: 1) legislation decriminalizing marijuana use is out of bounds at Boys State (because Pennsylvania has never been governed, ministered to, or coached by leaders of bad character); 2) the insurance industry will never allow the drinking age to drop back to 18 (as any reputable history professor knows, that’s a constitutionally established coequal branch of government; we are Farmers, buh-buh-buh buh-buh-buh-buh bitch, and also Penn State!; 3) Switzerland never had any late medieval or Renaissance history worth studying (too little defenestration?); and 4) we’re reading Beowulf in the original because it’s in English. School could be an intellectual adventure into unimagined worlds, or it could be just another double shift down the shaft at the ass mine. There’s no telling.
What can be predicted is that no matter how deranged or retarded the lesson is, some asshole in a position of authority will react to every critical question about it by getting sore and piping up about how ignorant shitheads are desecrating the sacrosanct. This is a great way to complement hissy fits about the plagiarism or ghostwriting of shitty undergrad liberal arts term papers on shitty prompts as a grave violation of the most inviolable and crucial standards of academic honor; reckless, baseless accusations of cheating on tests bubbling up from the same pathetic, chronically frustrated, sputteringly impotent cranny of the soul; or verbally abusing students one barely knows pursuant to an entirely hallucinated mentor-mentee relationship.
Helicopter parents rightfully get a lot of shit for verbally abusing their children’s professors over grades that are poor but reasonable, but as rotten as they are, at least they’re just pushing their customer end of a customer service relationship too far. Professors who refuse to behave professionally in the presence of their students (yes, genius, there’s a reason for the etymology) provide atrocious customer service in one of the most expensive, inflated, RICO-ready businesses operating in the USA today. Heh. That’s about the quality we can expect.
None of the students enrolled in these abusive professors’ classes or the parents paying for their studies would go back to a greasy spoon diner with verbally abusive waitstaff charging $25 a plate for half-cold, half-lukewarm, possibly cooked eggplant parm. Four years under the authority of unprofessional professors at a fancy private university works out to something like 8,000 or 12,000 servings.
Of course it’s a fucking racket. What else would it be? The way to keep the unmentionable temporalities from sullying this beautiful enterprise of the mind is to stop charging the median household income in annual tuition and fees. That’s what would quiet the student and parent grievances about bad customer service. It IS a customer service arrangement at that price. That’s all there fucking is to it.
There’s no excuse for some of this professorial wilding. Any dipshit vaguely familiar with education knows that accusations of cheating are liable to be construed as slanderous fighting words and that it is reckless to make them without evidence. And shouting belligerently at students one barely knows in nonemergency situations? Excuse me, asshole, if you were Staff Sergeant Marky Mark I’d be getting Blue Shield and a cop salary. If you’re losing it because you’re unhappy with the job you took in a rustbelt shithole as an R3 humanities deadender, that is not my fucking problem. Leave the rest of us the hell out of it. Say, sorry I didn’t return your call. I’m using that one-way ticket out of South Station on that good-ass Lake Shore Limited 449, train status: departed.
Putting it like that is a bit fucked up, but the principle behind it isn’t. If it’s obviously bullshit undergraduate scamming under authority figures who show absolutely no sense of perspective and get belligerently bent out of shape with their own students, why shouldn’t their disgruntled students walk away? Why shouldn’t they leave town?
I would hate to skip my $6,000 bachelor’s-level course in Science. I’d hate to waste any of that sum on, say, super-elite Amtrak Guest Rewards status, which wouldn’t guarantee anything but, like, hundreds of dollars of free travel valid anywhere on a rail system thousands of miles long on all but a week or two of the year. That would be lame, unlike Sam Cooke-level remedial science book studies. And be sure to sign up for Gary Johnson’s International Relations 420: War in the Middle East: What Is That Good For, Or All About? I Mean, Syriasly.
Anyone who takes that kind of seventh-grade distribution-requirement survey course bullshit seriously as collegiate instruction worth collegiate money is either being punked or brought to heel. That isn’t a college education in any reputable sense; it’s a crude operant conditioning scam. College really is, as I saw it put on Twitter, the company store for the middle class. These are the #TeshTips necessary for a true education. If these were the liberal arts, they wouldn’t be paywalled in expensive, selective colleges under the supercilious eye of a gatekeeping staff of administrative shitheads constantly on the lookout for reasons to reject applicants for being insufficiently compliant. Bend the knee, kid, or else.
Real-Life Rosalita was talking about dropping out of school and shacking up with her upperclassman boyfriend in California after he graduates. She said he’s some kind of child prodigy game development wizard on the Peninsula. I nearly explicitly encouraged her to go. She also talked about moving to Hawaii with him because he’s rich, and I vociferously warned her against that, knowing that it’s very much a strange and faraway country, and also one with unusually high airfares. I couldn’t warn her against California, not when she already had a local contact who sounded pretty solid, and certainly not when I was all of a week and a half past riding the lead car of a BART train to Richmond, quietly crying about the heartbreaking beauty of date palms and live oaks and shit.
The only strong reason for Real-Life Rosalita not to follow this dude out to the Bay Area is the likelihood that some admissions asshat will try to jam her up if she tries to reenroll in one of what are incorrectly referred to as good schools. As I mentioned in these pages some time ago, there are only two good schools in the Americas: Ryerson and Trinity Western. That, incidentally, is why I’m not the one plagiarizing anything: as far as I can tell, absolutely no one else has written about this stuff. As they say on their way into other parts of the West Coast, how shocking. It’s an efficient country, though, Canada, handling arrivals and departures in the same hall.
I quite doubt that Real-Life Rosalita will actually drop out and shack up with her college boyfriend. She’s too studious and dutiful. I won’t exactly be against it if she does it, though. It’s not like she’s being prompted to write anything more worthwhile than another round of shitposting about the Mounties. She’s enrolled at a school that comes way too close to calling its academics “science class.” It’s bad enough that we have high schoolers using that kind of language. College students? If I may lower the Bloom, that’s disgraceful.
This is an entire industry operating as a wholesale extortion racket. It’s systemic enterprise corruption enforced with threats to ruin young people’s careers and lives if they don’t comply. The only way out is popular defiance. Everyone who refuses to take part in this extortionate bullshit is doing a part to starve the beast. The real scandals of higher education have never been figments of the anti-intellectual fever-swamp hive mind. As I keep banging on about, many fancy schools do a terrible job at educating their students. Rod Dreher can be a poseur and a dork, but the Benedict Option is probably a more important and broadly applicable model for reform than he imagines. It can’t just be a Liberty University clone, either, pipelining hardline right-wing strivers into the federal judiciary and administrative apparatus. Every parallel institution that weakens some small part of the university-industrial complex by rendering it irrelevant is a godsend.
By the way, fuck off about college as a celebrated rite of passage. I can goddamn well do a forty-gallon winery crush or press run from start to finish unassisted using entirely manual equipment if there’s no one to help me. That’s passage enough, and I’ll be making legal threats against anyone who tries to haze me under those auspices ever again. There’s something badly wrong with us as a nation not to figure that it’s enough for our young people to become competent, responsible adults by learning trades or holding down jobs. There’s also something wrong with us for complaining about employees who walk away because their bosses won’t stop being assholes or dipshits or harboring such on the payroll.
It’s not like most undergraduate programs teach anything useful or have working professional pipelines for their graduates. *Extremely Dril voice* We are told to study “history,” by people who care not about Her Story,,, It’s a recurring Gag Me Ghomeshi to see some fuckhead in the alumni magazine bragging about how his (or her!) fancy college prepared shit for professional life by teaching critical thinking and writing. Are you fucking for real? How the hell is anyone with an interest in either of these skills unable to develop them online?
No, I’m not kidding. Not at all. The only conclusion that can be reached from these premises is that the most academically capable and qualified college applicants matriculate semiliterate and with no functional reasoning skills. This is, as we say in our syncretic post-Norman English, fucking insane.
In point of fact, they’re lying to us about that. Colleges recruit and graduate many students who didn’t need an institutional education to function intellectually, and they recruit many others who are functionally retarded when they enroll and remain so after they graduate. #TeshTips again: It’s these stupid ones who are good for alumni donations. I’m not the only one to go to school in Brain Washington. There are many such cases.
Once again, the sensible way to waste money in Boston is to stay the hell off campus and drop $5.50 or whatever to go joyriding on that fine-ass local rolling socialism to Wonderland. I’ve kicked around landside in airports enough to know that Body By Pastrami is one himself.