Sunday, June 12, 2011

This is MY Blog. MY blog has to understand ME.

Perhaps you have seen the commercial currently running for "National University". It is a horrifying montage of young people making demands, always putting emphasis on the ME and MY, like spoiled five year olds. The commercial is pandering to young adults who are products of the current culture of child worship, which tells children that they are ENTITLED to a college education. And not only that they are entitled to a college education - they believe - actually believe - that it is the responsibility of the educational system to work hard to cater to their every whim, to make things easier on them, and to coddle them. In this blog, I will deconstruct this commercial line by line, to show it in all of it's horror.

1) MY university must challenge me.

Response: If you want a challenging university, you don't apply to an online program for starters. Also, challenge yourself! Whatever happened to the noble autodidact? I mean, obviously, a college is there to teach you and facilitate your learning, but in the end, you are responsible for your education, no matter what college you attend. Why does everyone want to be spoon fed? Ugh.

2) MY university must allow me to be competitive.

Response: YOU make YOURSELF competitive you little punk, by being a decent human being and learning and working hard.

3) MY university must give me skills that will launch my career.

Response: That's not so unreasonable. Though I object to your demanding tone.

4) MY university MUST offer online options.

Response: Again, not so unreasonable. I understand if you have to hold down a full time job and need online options. OK. You get a pass.

5) MY university has to connect with ME.

Response: This is just awful. You are horrible. First of all, what does that even mean? Is the school supposed to contact you? Remind you of deadlines? Send you surveys to let them know how they're doing? This isn't a telephone company or a restaurant for crying out loud. It's not a concierge. It's a school. Which means that YOU do the majority of the work, including contacting your school.

6) Whereever or whenever I need them.

Response. UGh. Oh this makes me mad. If I had talked with this kind of snotty sense of entitlement as a kid, I would have been drowned in the creek out back by my totally justified parents. "I want what I want when I want it" type statements do not endear you to employers or anyone actually. Perhaps this is why you didn't get into a real college, and why you can't get a decent job. Freaking attitude problems.

7) MY college should understand that MY future starts NOW.

Response: DAAAA. Again with the ME and the MY and the NOW. Who are these people? Could they BE more unlikeable? Besides, this statement makes no sense. Techically speaking, everyone's future starts now. So? What does that even mean? That the college is supposed to throw you some kind of celebration for taking the noble step of enrolling in some online technical school, because your future starts now? Do you want a trophy?

8) MY education should be THEIR priority.

Response: Are you seeing a pattern here? Do you understand why these people have no hope of a bright future? NO. NO stupid kid. Your education should be YOUR freaking priority. YOUR priority. YOUR priority. YOUR priority. THEIR priority is to make money and try to give you some skills so you're a less worthless person. THEIR priority is to keep a functioning business, while enabling you to become a slightly less sorry excuse for a self righteous overly entitled human being you fucking nightmare of a person. You are a monstrous walking abortion, and a slimy cornucopia of demanding mediocrity.

Oh, and by the way. These are some of the activities we see these abominable people engaging in while they make their outrageous demands.

* playing video games
* sitting in an outdoor cafe
* snowboarding
* shopping
* sitting in a bar while people play pool in the background

Really? Really? If this is how you spend your days, what exactly entitles you to anything? If you don't have a good job, which ostensibly you don't, who is funding all these snowboarding and shopping trips? Hmmmm? You're entitled to exactly nothing, aside from your basic civil liberties, because you are a drain on your families, and you're not even nice people, and you contribute nothing to society other than bratty demands and probably bastard children.

Sigh. I'm calming down now.

My point is, higher education is not your personal concierge service. You are supposed to EARN a degree by WORKING for it. It's not something you deserve, just by being alive. You are not entitled to it, and your college is not supposed to work around YOU. It's not all about YOU. If you have to sacrifice nothing to get a degree, then it's just a worthless piece of paper, because you didn't EARN it. Of course, it's not unreasonable to try to find the best program for you; one that matches your needs. But you can't expect a college to conform to every one of those needs; and you certainly shouldn't make demands on television, showing the world how spoiled rotten you are, shaming your grandparents.

Monday, June 6, 2011

KIds Can Be Stoopid Too

Once I was talking to an 16 year old girl about what her plans were for after high school. With a completely serious face, she told me that she wanted to go to med school and be a brain surgeon. This girl was beautiful, funny and kind. She was a lovely person. She was also dumb as a rock.

And yet, no one had properly discouraged her from the "brain surgeon" life path. Why? Because we, as a society, have collectively decided that there are no dumb children. We have decided that all children, regardless of capability, should be encouraged on the same PhD-earning-genius life path, regardless of ability or inclination. In fact, discouraging a child from this path is seen as almost abusive.

Now, of course, I'm aware that the girl I mentioned previously would probably not get into medical school. And if she did, she would probably not graduate. After all, their standards are rigorous and a truly dumb person would not be able to handle it. But a part of me still panicked. Because what if she did get by, scraping by on her looks and charm and kindness? And what if some day I need brain surgery? And what if, as I'm going under, I look into the eyes of the dumb, former sixteen year old as she hums "The knee bone's connected to the....something bone" to herself. I can't move or talk as I go under the knife of the moron, probably never to return to this earth.

What if?

I knew another girl who was attending community college, at the insistence of her parents. She was one of the nicest girls in the world, and had excellent taste in music and movies. We became friends. She was also dumb. Well, try as she might she could not pass her classes. Her parents were infuriated, saying that she just wasn't trying, and that she was being lazy.

But she wasn't being lazy. I personally helped her study for tests. I proofread her papers. She stayed home on weekends- instead of going out with her friends - to study. This girl was, truly, trying her hardest. She was just simply not very smart. She had trouble retaining information, and her writing was weirdly scattered and illogical. She told me, confidentially, that what she most wanted in the world was to be a mother, and that she had no interest in college at all, and that she was only going because her parents insisted.

Now, I don't think her parents were bad people. I think they wanted the best for their daughter. But I think they were doing her a disservice by refusing to acknowledge her limitations. The whole family would have been better off if they had stopped pressuring her to be someone that she could not be, no matter how hard she tried.

People need to realize and acknowledge that kids can be dumb too. It doesn't mean that they're bad people, or that they're useless, or that they can't be good at anything. But they're dumb. And that's ok.

Kids who suck at school are always excused on grounds other than stupidity. Now don't get me wrong. There are legitimate reasons for a genuinely bright kid to suck at school. For instance there are kids with dyslexia and ADD who have high IQs and good thinking skills, but because of their learning disabilities, just don't excel in normal school environments. And of course, there are kids who don't excel in school because they're being abused or whatever. And some kids are, actually lazy. But I think we need to acknowledge that some kids just plain suck at learning.

People often blame teachers when kids aren't learning well. They say "My kid is actually very smart, but Mrs. X just doesn't understand how to teach a special child like mine. She has a different learning style, that's all!" This angers me. First of all, the concept of "learning styles" is silly. Yes, some people learn better some ways than others, but if your brain is functioning at a normal level, you should be able to learn ANY way, not just some special specific way. If the teacher has to make up a little song and color code all her handouts and change font sizes and make your kid do jumping jacks every five minutes in order to make your kid learn, guess what? The problem ain't the teacher.

People also like to blame the "home environment" for kids not excelling in school. Putting aside the abusive parents, I'm skeptical that a home environment can actually make a kid dumb. Of course, a parent can work with their child, give them educational opportunities and provide a loving environment and proper nutrition and sleep, which DOES help. I'm not discrediting that. But if the kid just doesn't have the raw material, there is only so much parents can do to make the kid smart. Just like how sometimes geniuses are born to slack jawed mouth breathers with IQs of 80. Those dumb parents can't crush the genius, anymore than the smart parents can "fix" their dumb kid simply by nurturing it.

Of course, I believe that parents should encourage their kids to reach their potential. I just think they need to be realistic about what that potential is. The kids are going to find out sooner or later, when they start failing at things. I think it's kinder to put them on a path that leads them to make use of the advantages and skills they DO have. Is your dumb son mechanically inclined? By all means send him to trade school to learn to be a mechanic. Is your dumb daughter really good at baking? Why not encourage that as a career path? Are they good at athletics? By all means, push them in that direction. There are plenty of awesome career options that don't require rocket science smarts. For instance, professional singer, actor, chef, professional athlete, artist, musician, gardener, farmer, security guard, carpenter, welder or florist. These are solid, respectable careers in which your dumb kid can excel without feeling bad about herself.

What you should NOT do with your dumb kid is insist that they're smart, and that they just aren't trying hard enough, when in fact they are trying as hard as they possibly can. You shouldn't push them to be something they aren't. And we as a society need to acknowledge that kids are sometimes dumb, just like some adults are dumb. They can still be perfectly wonderful people who contribute to society and live fulfilling lives. There's no shame in it. There are more important things than intelligence anyway, such as good-heartedness, a sense of humor, and having an accurate moral compass. We need to stop blaming teachers and parents and TV and the internet and sugar for kids who fail to evince the sharp intelligence so coveted by most parents. Sometimes that's just the way it is. We should celebrate these kids for just who they are, stupidity and all.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Just Can't Get Enough Shopahol

Years ago, I thought it was stupid when some girl would talk about her shopping addiction. I thought people who were into shopping were shallow and silly. While I still maintain that certain shopping addictions are silly (for instance collecting Boyd's Bears or stuffed animals)I now realize that my previous judgment was simply the "sour grapes" of a poor girl. I couldn't buy anything; therefore, buying things is stoopid. Now that I'm not poor anymore, I've changed my mind, with unsettling results.

As you probably know, I have an obsessive personality. When I get something in my head, it doesn't leave. When combined with a love of buying things, this is truly dangerous. For instance. I was browsing around on the internet, looking for yoga clothes, since I start teacher training in August, and obviously will need new, authoritative looking yoga outfits. Well, during my search, I found some fantastically cool Thai fisherman's pants for only $18, handmade by some Thai woman. I loved these pants, and I wanted them. But Phil and I are trying to save money, so I'm supposed to be cutting back on purchases.

So here's what happened.

I looked at the fisherman's pants. I studied the picture, the cost, the care instructions, and everything to do with those pants. And I said to myself "Next month, those pants will be mine".

I turned on the TV to distract myself. Everything was fine for approximately 15 minutes. And then I thought -

"What if they're gone next month?"


I pulled the website up again. They were still there. My breathing relaxed and returned to normal. I turned my attention back to the TV.

But now all I can think about is those pants and how badly I want them. I can't be distracted. I can't change my train of thought. I can't reason or logic my way out of it. I need those fucking pants.

So obsessed am I, that I start talking about them.

"Hey Phillip" I say. "Guess what I found online? FAntastic yoga pants! In my size! I wouldn't have to hem them or anything! Only $18! Awesome, huh?"

Phil mutters something like "uh huh k" and goes back to playing Warcraft.

He didn't say no.

But that's besides the point. I'm just going to look at the picture. I won't buy them; at least not today. But it doesn't hurt to look at the picture. At all.

Later that night, I can't sleep. Someone else is going to buy my pants, I just know it. My mind races, and my heart pounds. I grab my ipad and look at the website again, just to make sure they're still there. They are. I tell myself to calm down. They're just pants. Sleep is more important than pants. Go to sleep.

The next morning, I lunge at my ipad as soon as the alarm goes off to make sure they're still there. When they're there, you know what I do. I buy them immediately, using paypal. The relief is so intense I'm almost dizzy. They're mine.


It's not just online shopping that's the problem, either.

Sunday I went to the Patchwork Festival in Santa Ana with my friends Raeleen and Nicole. I got $40 cash, which I intended to be my spending limit. After 10 minutes of walking around the fantastic, unbelievably dangerous festival, I had already spent $100 and had plans to spend much more on blazers and skirts with embroidered owls on them. With that exhilarated, but slightly sickened feeling, I forced myself to breath. I called Phillip.

"Ummm, honey? What's a reasonable amount of money for me to spend here?"

Phil said "I don't know. What do you want to buy?"

"Uh. Basically everything."

"Ummm ok. How much would that cost?"

"I'm being serious. How much can I spend? I'm having trouble with self control and I need you to give me limits."

"Uhhh $30 or $40 seems reasonable. But I'll leave it to your discretion."

I hung up, feeling ashamed. I had spent over $100 in ten minutes without batting an eyelash. My poor husband. My poor, poor husband.

On a side note, the homemade rosemary butter brittle there is amazing. And so is the elephant shaped, turquoise studded watch necklace I bought there. And so is my peacock headband, and the lotion and my new fitted plaid shirt. I highly recommend the Patchwork Festival.

I don't want you to think I only buy frivolous things. In fact, most of the stuff I buy is necessary, but just because it's necessary doesn't mean it's not dangerous.

Take grocery shopping for example.

From years of living in poverty, I have developed weird hoarding tendencies with food. I always want a huge stockpile of non-perishable foods, in case of an upcoming famine/nuclear holocaust/level 3 zombie attack. To counteract this, I carefully plan out our meals for the week, make a grocery list, and resolve to stick to it. I won't even go into the aisles that do not contain things on my list. I won't.

I won't.

But you know how this goes.

First of all, I'm a total sucker for those special displays featuring 30 kinds of Campbells soup for a dollar or discounted cough syrup. Because you can always use soup and cough syrup, right? What if there's a famine? What will I do with no soup or cough syrup? So I stock up.

And sometimes I start to get hungry or thirsty. For instance, two weeks ago, I was thirsty when I was grocery shopping. I purchased: 3 odwalla smoothies, 2 liters of Pellegrino, a bottle of wine, 12 individual bottles of flavored iced tea, and a bottle of organic cherry juice. On the grocery list: one bottle of club soda.

Also, I am a creature of many cravings. My craving are intense, immediate, and undeniable. So sometimes, when I'm in the grocery store, a craving will hit me and I can't ignore it. I'll say to myself "You don't need any cheese nips. They're not on the list". And "Cheese nips aren't good for you. It's just junk food. We'll get some apples or something instead". (Yes, my internal monologue uses the "royal we". I don't know why) So I'll got look at the apples and I'll start to feel depressed. I don't want apples. I want cheese nips. I'll try to substitute with something else, but nothing else will do. My brain will not shut off until I get the cheese nips.

Let's say I manage to go home without buying the cheese nips. Is the problem solved? Did I win over my urges? No. We have only just begun. Because now that I know there are no cheese nips in the house, my craving only intensifies. I want them more, because I can't have them. They are forbidden fruit. Tasty, cheesy, salty, fatty forbidden fruit.

So you understand the level of obsessiveness we're talking about, the craving doesn't go away in a matter of hours, or even days. It literally will not go away until I get some cheese nips. It doesn't matter what else I eat, what else I do, or where else I go. In the back of my mind is always the lack of cheese nips, and an intense urge to fill that lack.

Fortunately, cheese nips hurt my stomach now, so I don't crave them anymore, but you see my point.

Now let's all take a moment to pray for my poor husband.