Sunday, June 21, 2009

Edumacation Paradox

“The most insidious influence on the young is not violence, drugs, tobacco, drink or sexual perversion, but our pursuit of the trivial and our tolerance of the third rate.”
- Eric Anderson

Went to a college gradumacation (sic) ceremony in the Inland Empire last weekend. Got the last hotel room in town – a “smoking” room, which meant that everything in the room smelled like an overflowing ashtray left out in the rain. The light in the bathroom, when turned off, flashed about every 5 seconds, like paparazzi flashbulbs going off all night behind the bathroom door.

The graduation ceremony was at 8:00 am, to make room for at least one subsequent ceremony. The early “Arts” graduation at least didn’t include Business majors, who are reputedly more rowdy, and their parents interrupt the ceremony with applause or bleating air horns. Vulgar barbarians.

The student valedictorian spoke about what she had learned in her average of 4.5 undergraduate years, including how to “pound shots of Jagermeister” which was pretty close to the top of her uninspiring list. The official speaker was a former chancellor who has an appointed position in the current presidential administration, somewhere in the range of the Assistant Undersecretary of Solid Waste at the Environmental Protection Agency. Inspiring in its own way I suppose.

I observed a man on a cell phone (everybody has cell phones, and everybody scoffs at the suggestion that we turn them off for the ceremony). He’s standing a row or two ahead of my seat waiting for the ceremony to begin. He’s trying to explain to the person on the other end how to locate him. He points over my head at the building behind us, “I’m here next to Pierce Hall” as if the caller could see where he was pointing. So you see why HE wasn’t in the graduating class.

Behind us, a group of three guys sat and mused about how they wished they’d snuck in an air horn to hoot when their buddy walked up to get his handshake. He wasn’t kidding about the sneaking in part. They searched ladies handbags before letting us enter the carefully plastic-fenced and guarded perimeter. The fence was not enough to stop Tech Support Guy with COPD from breaching as he located a shortcut he was able to negotiate despite having to stop several times to catch his breath. Not sure how said fence would protect the audience from a terrorist attack…

Apparently, a few years ago a disgruntled senior phoned in a bomb threat to avoid having his parents find out he wasn’t cleared to graduate because he’d failed a final course. Although he succeeded in having the graduation ceremony cancelled, his very act demonstrated the kind of maturity and decision-making skills he clearly didn’t master during his undergraduate period. During our ceremony, a suit in reflective aviator sunglasses sat facing backward at the head of each row: surveying the restless crowd for any sign of suspicious activity. There was a bulge in the suit jacket of the guy at the head of the row we sat near. I hope his concealed weapon was pepper spray can and not a loaded gun, but perhaps it didn’t matter, since no terrorist threat materialized.

Our graduates each received a PhD in Anthropology, making them a pair of docs. This, as I understand it, entitles them to a 10% discount at all Anthropology stores, something the clerk in the local mall store didn’t get, alas. One graduate proceeds to law school in the fall. The other will probably work at Starbucks: but at least the doctorate may be enough to score a starting position as shift supervisor.


tina said...

Congrats to the graduates! Sounds like quite a day.

walk2write said...

Hats off to the new graduates! You might tell the one slated for Starbucks that the new administration is expanding the CIA. I guess a few more suits are required. Just in case the rowdy crowd of new grads decides to get together over something more important than pounding shots of Jagermeister.

James A-S said...

Another great post. Funny, ironic and interesting. With a quote from the former headmaster of Eton College, no less.