My State of Education

To anyone who thinks there’s more at the moment,

A certain level of irony will go into the sarcasm of trying to be relevant while staying on topic, so try to keep up. This topic is so broad it’s truly confusing to discern where it starts, or should, in order to impress any impact beyond the fact that this is a brick of words so it inherently must be boring. Maybe if I separate the entire thing into two line chunks like a twitter feed, with picture examples included, it will be easier to not close the window. I also do figurative language, but don’t take my word for it…

There is a weird and undefinable disconnect between the expectations of teenagers and the expectations for those teenagers which stems from adults who were once teenagers. I’d like to premise my points by saying no one is to blame for this, no person, because that kind of thinking might get a complaint filed against me, and I think six is enough for now. For now, let’s say it’s the result of technology—which is a very tired subject, and class has just started.

My realization for how technology has created a negative influence came as an accident. I was discussing ‘sexting’ as a way to address anonymity as it pertains to guilt in the way we treat other human beings because we are encouraged to refuse to get to know them, which is a hidden theme of ‘Tuesday’s With Morrie’ in the way that Mitch, the narrator, is unconcerned with how he lives his life until he revisits someone who knew him very dearly. This was and is a wide concept for teenagers to get, looking at how they treat other people because they don’t consider how they should treat other people—you know, the golden rule? But I was discussing sexting with my students in as a professional way as I could possibly think of because it is a cultural example they can relate to and it does happen. I would be glad to apologize to any parent who finds this offensive, but I spoke about it because it exists and I believed that every single child in that room had the capacity to be mature enough to understand the connection to the literature we were analyzing and to take away the right message of why I would need to introduce the topic. As a concept, it’s an unfortunate existence because of its accessibility, and no generation before this current batch of 20somethings has been able to show off their bodies, or be asked to, so immediately or cheaply.

Halfway through my explanation I realized how awkward it would be for any of my students, as well as myself, to have to explain what sexting is, and how it can hurt, to their parents. There simply wasn’t the technology at that time of pubescent confusion, so the pressure or temptation or curiosity of anything that deals with digital flirting did not exist for anyone older than their parents.  Ten years from now this will be digested more easily, similar to the onset of mass marketed birth control in the 70s, but for right now, this nugget is indicative of a much larger problem teenagers face in this decade. Many problems students face today would be like trying to start teaching an adult a new language, and it is much easier in many categories to simply not have those conversations because it’s not hard to imagine why an adult wouldn’t ‘get it.’ I have an interesting perspective of being halfway between generations so I’m aware of my students’ issues, but not so far removed from traditional schooling and raising and expectations—I know when to quote Bon Jovi and how to be polite at dinner parties without my phone.

I apologize if the previous paragraphs took on a serious, uncomfortable tone, but that discomfort is what convinces most kids to make decisions regarding their education. They either know the expectations of their parents and wish to gain acceptance from following the rules, or they fear seeming homogenous so they choose to not follow certain rules. There are so many that it’s hard to keep track of who stands by which ones, so children pick and choose like rules come from a fundraiser catalog. There’s a running joke in teaching how often students will ask for extra credit when they have missing assignments for regular credit. More often than not I’ll assign late work with a different name on the top and no one has caught me yet.

 

A student came by this week to complain about their attendance. Like an incredulous amount of my other students, she is missing so many more concepts than days from school, and it doesn’t matter which days or which concepts; she has never come to tutoring during my planning or after school every day of the week. But it’s a good idea to miss another class to come find me and ask about being tardy for my class, and none of this affects her overall performance, just a number in the computer system that disappears every semester. I want to move away from this example because I feel as bored as you do reading it—it’s an infinitesimal example of the decisions students come across on a daily basis and most of them are stupid. Of course they’re allowed to be stupid—they’re kids—but they should slowly become less stupid and less frequent. Something is causing kids to simply not think through their own decisions and go for the least common denominator of red light/green light.

Most adults are as guilty as smartphones in this instance. As purely digital natives, this generation of kids learns so immediately the conditioning of doing something right will cause a response. When they tap a screen, if they do it right, a new screen will appear; if they don’t, nothing happens. Imagine a child or even a baby holding its mom’s phone—tap correctly and the colors change. These seems like an egregious parallel between babies and teenagers, but the immediate recall of tap and response fosters that level of communication for less technological devices and even people. Tap someone on the shoulder and get a ‘hi,’ smile at someone and get a smile in return. Decisions are a continual system of correct and incorrect, but the instant stimuli of phones and digital content change the entire process of decision making. To put the allegory to sleep, a baby crying to get attention still has to wait for someone to get out of their seat, and someone getting ice has to wait for the fridge to crush it.

This wild supposition has to have a conclusion, so if you’re still reading while waiting for shards of ice, think about it. There is no waiting with phones, even the content shown as posts and previews and updates that pop up as a banner if a message needs to be condensed and then screened. If that’s how information is transferred on an hourly basis, why would anyone want to slow down and parcel through the pre-reader’s digest version? That type of information shouldn’t even make sense to teenagers. Why wait a week for the conclusion to a cliffhanger show when the next episode is already buffering? Why sit through a meaningful minute-long David Gilmour intro when lyrics can start four seconds after Pharrell has established the beat with his unnecessary repeating letters? Why read when spark notes exists?

 

Why think when there’s a teacher in the room? They have the answers to the test anyway. And don’t get me started on ‘Trivia Crack’ where the answer is revealed seconds after not thinking ‘final answer.’ There is no system of recall because of the timer for the next question, so any consideration about the correct answer or who should care why that is the correct answer goes out the window. As long as the answer choice turns green you can feel good about the question that was asked until the round ends and you start another one. Teenagers have become conditioned to look for the answer to things instead of thinking through, around, or even about the problem. Some teachers even go so far as to say look at the answer choices, then the question before reading the passage to save time looking for the answer. Matching word B with box choice A doesn’t ‘show how to do something’ which is the word for word definition of teach. Hopefully we’ll get to standardized tests, which differ greatly from summative assessments, but the current issue involves the way people care about getting the right answer. Without the explanation of an answer, less brain synapses fire and less basic caring goes towards something and genuine teaching doesn’t occur. Too often students will demand the answer on a test during correction, but won’t stop themselves to consider why it’s correct, or why they need to know this in the first place.

Another personal diatribe that fits well is that of the struggling senior. They’re well beyond caring because no one older has shown them why they should care, and now they’re older so they’ve got it figured out. Every adult should be able to remember this phase of growing up, when you really think you have what you need to know. (My students would laugh at how many ‘you’s I just used.) They have a terrible average and the conversations they can’t uphold show why, but they still, somehow, has the opportunity to pass. Teachers are asked to regrade, amend, and even dumb down assignments so that the grades can superficially get the student to a D minus minus.

At a meeting, I almost asked a woman, “Do we want him to pass, or to learn?”

Neither scenario gets him to care, but one looks good on paper. And that’s heartbreaking. Children are so misguided because they should be, and as former teenagers we should show them, or at least explain, either how not to do what we did, or to do it better so that they learn their own lessons differently. I genuinely enjoy making a teenager feel small for a few moments when I show them that they can’t guess their way to my answer and they really don’t have it without reading my book. It’s a real punch in the ego, and while I don’t want any child to feel any pain for any length of time, they need to in order to grow. I don’t touch things that are on fire for a very good reason.

 

This has gotten me into a ton of trouble, often, and recently, but I am a teacher. I show people how to not look like a complete fool by making them feel. To check my ego, it is quite often that I feel foolish when a lesson doesn’t go well or offends someone into sending an email to my superiors, but those are learning experiences as long as no one in the situation gives up. Whether people feel empowered, correct, or foolish in order to learn is up to them, but that’s the one part of my teaching that I am cussword consistent about, and the right kids get when I’m being sarcastic or downright mean because I love them and I don’t want them to look stupid in front of anyone else again.

It’s unfortunate how many kids simply do not look up from their phones long enough to see this in me, or look defiantly as I try to take their phones like every other authority figure they’ve had. Technically that’s a child’s prerogative to decide they will purposefully ignore learning, and I believe that some kids should be left behind because they want to be—they will learn their lesson at some point in their lives, so it’s hard to just sit back and ask when, when I can prevent those lessons from happening. I’ll be cussworded if I don’t give an honest try to reach a child in the most embarrassing way (to myself) I can think of before resigning myself to understanding that that person about to become an adult is allowed to make their own choices about ‘not needing’ social skills like talking in front of people, explaining their reasoning, or dancing. Yes, I force dance upon my students and I don’t want them to feel embarrassed during the many times they will be asked to because they already did that in my classroom. A few of my kids run from their fear of dancing.

And the dissonance is amazing: I have to make the decision to hurt someone so that I can stop them from hurting. Otherwise they don’t hurt and enjoy my jokes, but fill up with pride that has to go somewhere when they do eventually get hurt. And the world hurts in more ways than they can possibly imagine at this point. When people say that ‘you don’t think like a parent until you are one,’ they’re trying to explain this hurt, that I know my students have to hurt before they can become the amazing people I see them becoming. That hurts. I guess I’m old enough to know the hurt and would rather take on that hurt of watching a child start to hate me, than know that one day they will be hurt and I could’ve done something. I want the people I encounter to experience life as full as they can, which is why I won’t be showing movies during the last week of school.

 

I had seriously started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to transition to my next talking point, but those who can’t teach irony. So much information exists in the world, most of it barely having anything to do with literature, and I’m cocky enough to imagine that I can explain, well yeah, I can explain anything better than most as long as I know what I’m talking about. A piece of paper says I went to college for literature, but I went for researching and I’m great at it because my English professors made me great at it.

I went over allegories recently, so imagine your brain is a book. Once the words are there they are in there, and researching finds the words again and again. If the book is only ever about one or two subjects, it can never find the right answers to explain. I could give a cussword if people remember the plots of classic, canon-based literature as long as they remember how they felt at certain parts and what experiences they related those feeling to. That’s what themes are, but just saying that isn’t teaching. Seeing an example of personification in ‘Big Fish’ is technically showing, but making that image happen without visuals is a deeper form of teaching, and that might cause you to remember me, or trees, or feelings, when you don’t need anyone and realize that’s when you want to need people the most. I want people to be able to research their own brains for the answers because other people worked so hard to put all of that information on phones, and that sounds like work. I can give so many tools to children, people, but I can’t teach work. That sucks, but the reason for it is that there is no single substitute to the pride felt after truly working; it’s a human theme. I don’t care what kind of work it is, even the screenplay for Twilight movies, as long as it’s something that time has no effect on. In regards to movies, time messes with memories constantly.

My district lays halfway between two schools of thought. One side is the ‘civilized’ ‘new-farm country’ of America that has small businesses and constant electricity, but has no idea about class or propriety. It’s trash culture. There’s a pride in what you do but a lack of shame from how you look. I grew up in it. I’ve been to school in overalls and no shirt. I’ve hitchhiked to school, and I loved it. I had couches in my yard until we set them on fire and immediately proceeded to grab the hose for the backyard. But it is trash and some people love that lifestyle and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is the other society pushed up against that one where everyone puts on a tie and commutes to a major metropolitan city where their offices look down on other offices. There’s a feeling of moving into high society in the morning, and lethargy of using your soul to keep the furnaces burning in the evening. Seeing people getting off the 5 o’clock train reminds me of zombie shows. They all believe that this is it and it’s what they have to get up in the morning for and what justifies what they did to get there. They’ve worked their lives away, and expect their children, who are so much geographically closer to so many job opportunities, to do the same. There’s the expectation to reach high society, when they live in the low country.

But it doesn’t feel that way. We have a Buffalo Wild Wings- a cornerstone of fancy living communities. (I digress—some of their sauces are amazing but you don’t need a chemistry degree to work there.) We have car dealerships and bus routes and a straight shot to any type of job you can think of, so why would anyone ‘regress’ toward menial labor or a service industry job? Over 80% of my students know they’re going to college, but don’t know their GPA, what classes they’ll take senior year, what they want to study, that they should have extra circulars, that they need to take the SATs, or that they need to know what commas do so their college essays don’t look embarrassing. They know phones. They’re already ‘high society’ without every knowing alternative perspectives where work is the only thing that moves people closer to their actual, or supposed goals. They don’t know work.

 

So I stand in the way. I don’t have the years of practice or experience to organize half of what I’d like my students to experience the same way I did: ‘South of the Slot’ changed my life. I try the best I can to give them obscure lessons where they use their phones for good, or think for themselves with no hope of every hearing the right answer because they don’t need my approval—they need to approve of the answer they come up with. I take phones randomly because I can tell they’ve been on it for days and this conversational point might actually make them keep their head up in time to see something they literally haven’t, so that they can run.

Tests and tests aren’t the goal. Living is the goal and there’s too much of it for this to be a timed exam. Nobody knows what’s on the next page or how long I’ll extend this metaphor, but writing is running. Answering, or making choices which lead to all sorts of outcomes, requires the moving of feet. How many times and how frequently is up to anyone, but I can’t imagine any of my kids not seeing everything they’d like to at an amusement park because they didn’t move fast enough, and they’re not aware of what rides just opened up. Sorry for jumping from one device to another, but it makes sense in my head. I certainly want them to run from this place so that they can see other places and see what those places are like so that they can compare like characters in novels. I want them to run, and sometimes I have to make sure they can’t see around me so that they start moving.

Some teenagers I move past see me as mean because they have to. I’m okay with being something they have to get past on the way to becoming them.

 

Tim Angell

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Caring about now.

“Mr. ‘Teacher.’ When are you going to realize that everything you do up there, every rule and punctuation mark and smile and assignment will be completely gone in under four years? Can you quote any of your high school teachers? Weren’t you finding reasons to be on your phone? What you do makes no impact on any of us and you won’t make it past 22- you’re like the supplies for a birthday party. We need you to not make a mess, but nobody really notices that you’re there and it’s a hassle to put you in the trash after everyone has used you. You’ll have a lot fewer arguments with kids when you see that, then you’ll be more like some of our nicer teachers who let us do what we want.”

Well I can't really argue with astute analogies, but piecing this apart may make me smile in small parts. I realized the outcome of disconnection and outcome of teenagers not caring when I taught in a district that had given the kids exactly what they wanted. It was sad to see students reprimanded for headphone infractions and holding hands like they were children, and then expect them to leave their school day for adulthood and not sound ignorant or childish for not being reminded of the rules or for not being praised for anything in their lives. There's a large shift between secondary schooling and the real world, and it's that people who don't know your middle name don't give a cuss word about you. No one is left to ask how your game went, or to comment on your haircut because they see you every day, or to help you feel good about doing anything selfless for anyone for any reason. No one cares if you play a sport or volunteer when you're an adult; you're just expected to find that sense of inner pride when you finish something, when no one taught you how to have that at any point of your life. 
That's fine to forget or block certain things out, but high schools were meant to teach you 'how' to think, not 'what,' and a lot of districts and subdivisions and statistics forgot that. Each generation complains about the latest one being lazier, greedier, and more self-deserving, when it's the oldest generation who passes it down by trying to slap band-aids on losing playoff games and not getting away with cheating on assignments- if you don't do the work you should be faced with the idea that you suck at something. Feel bad. Feel lazy. Realize that someone is better, and then work harder. Quitting is not what made four and a half good Rocky movies. The adults who prepare the kids- who will be adults and pass their lessons to kids- seem to lose that transference of care. Yes someone cares about you as a child, but you need to learn to care for yourself before you become an adult so that you don't sound like a child when a mechanic calls with the wrong estimate or you need to email someone who is understandably mistaken about an issue that neither party should care about- it's just track lighting.  But this cycle of passing children like buckets of water gets those kids to the end of the line, and they only know how to pass buckets as well. 
It's funny that you mention me being used because that's exactly what I did to people when I was your age, and I have a much longer list of people I wish I was friends with than actual friends, who are the deepest friends, since they somehow saw past me being a selfish symbol of my entire age group. I don't want the same regret for any of you-which is why I encourage meeting everybody-because adults hate meeting each other for any reason except food. You have the opportunity to make eye contact with hundreds of people every day, and I wish adults had that; we spend more than 50% of our days looking at screens and wondering why it's hard to make eye contact with one or two people we aren't familiar with. The chain of judgement and awkward silence has gotten too wide for us and it feels safer to sit on a couch that has never judged us, making comments to a less-than-tangible webpage which always helps us fix our grammar mistakes and none of our moral mistakes. The whole technology issue is another ironic post, and I'll let this medium sink in. 
As for words and assignments, no matter what subject you teach, even knot tying or singing on key, synapses work in funny ways that connect songs on the radio to a book you read over ten years ago, which reminds you of your brother who played that CD way too much, which reminds you of breaking the speaker in the backseat, which reminds you of one of the longest road trips to see family, which reminds you of one of the shortest 6 hour drives to Florida you didn't know you'd want to hold onto because it was the longest time you spend discussing the road with your father. Everything is connected to everything, and it's that obscure sense of fate that one day you'll see the same word In a book I told you to read over winter break that you got to ten winter breaks too late, but it reminds you of a memory you've wanted to tell your daughter for years and didn't know where it was waiting for you. The assignments I put on you get put on your soul, and if you take your cuss word headphones out for long enough, you'll hear the future and might come to understand what hard work is before it's 2 AM and you're out of ideas on how to restart your computer to print a paper for a class you spent a thousand dollars on. 
I want you to experience twice the memories that I've hinted at, but I want you to be able to experience them fully, without repose, and without needing to reach for a camera phone or media outlet to share it with people who will literally scroll past your accomplishments. But I want you to be able to adequately and eloquently be able to describe half of those memories to people who might make eye contact with you, and might need that specific word to get them halfway to the feeling that you had when you saw the sunset after your last high school practice. You'll need those words for speeches you didn't know you had to make decades from now. 
Even though I realized that the current is too strong to stand up in, I'll anchor a stick into the rocks until I can't, and see what gets snagged in the meantime. When's the last time you really stared down a small beaver dam?

I Can’t Let Them Lie

http://www.altdaily.com/features/news/121-opinion36/6699-10-reasons-it-doesn-t-suck-to-go-to-olddirty#.U0MjC4eplVM.facebook

Rarely, and often, do I come across my Alma mater when I’m not looking for it. Four years of my very short adulthood is too large to ignore, and while I grew up some while living in one of the worst traffic locations in the U.S, it still sucks and I’m overtly bitter about how people end up there and turn into bad citizens.

On a random web surf, I came across a blog post about why it doesn’t suck to go to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

I would like to stop and add a large disclaimer about the education I received and the human worth of the professors I encountered. I didn’t leave Old Dominion after my first year because it had a ridiculously succinct and serious educational program and I had no doubt that I would be getting proper and extensive training to do anything that I wanted to. Old Dominion has some of the finest teachers I’ve ever met and I have a silly amount of respect for certain professors who poured their love of subject into their lessons every day and had to put up with students bringing pillows to class just so they could pass the attendance requirement of the class. Most of the professors I personally had are not getting paid enough and deserve many more accolades for the time and effort they put in to end up with adults like myself who were given every tool needed to succeed in the real world. I desperately wish that I could express a small amount of gratitude to these professors and I’ll probably shoot them quick emails this week, but I will not publicize them online because I know that they would chastise me for the impersonal nature of a thumbs-up on a media site. Old Dominion offers an education that’s as good as any other college in Virginia.

Back to the article, psychology-wise, even the title makes excuses for living there- it’s not a great place to live by any means, it just doesn’t suck so you should give it a try and hope not to be robbed. It is positive to note that at least the robbers in Norfolk are quite creative, as my brother’s house was once broken into by having their back door sawed in half over winter break. The city, and surrounding area of Norfolk, is so sad and decrepit that it breeds criminal attitude, and after awhile everyone begins to look after themselves. Somehow the sun shines brighter as soon as you cross the bridge tunnel on 64. I could go on for a thousand words about how I walked through downtown with my hood up so that other people thought that I was a mugger and therefore wouldn’t mug me, or that my car’s window was smashed for fun and not for profit, or that I received a ticket for a policeman’s mistake while being the designated driver, but that’s simply why I hate Norfolk and everyone has their reasons. Your experience may be completely different. If at all possible, I’d like to go with facts I can compare to the ridiculous claims in the blog post that I shook my head at.

The first reason to go to a school near Virginia Beach is the beach, according to the blog at least. I’m well aware that it takes almost ten miles and twenty minutes of light traffic to get to the ocean front- that isn’t the James River- in ‘Ocean View,’ which my brother has reiterated as a place never to live if you want to enjoy your week. It is a fact that the beaches in Ocean View have glass and trash all over the sand and parking is laughable. I could start in with ‘at least…’ but what is the point of making excuses for a place you call home? The actual Virginia Beach beachfront people are familiar with is 21 miles west on route 264. Having the beach less than an hour away is not really a reason to love a college.

ODU students certainly do not run the streets of downtown Norfolk. I’ve seen a cop run down the street and tackle an ODU student because he kept walking, but the parties sort of have to hide- like those guys who take apart electronics if you leave your old TV on your lawn at night. At least there’s free trash pick-up. Between the expensive banking district and the campus stoplights that beep every 32 seconds, there are four ‘not crummy’ bars scattered among construction sites off Onley Rd, parking lots ringed with barbed wire, and rows of dilapidated houses next to Walgreen’s on 21st St. The bars are small, with terrible layouts, and one in particular has a new name and owner every few months. None of them look like the fun happening in movies, or any of the bars on ‘The Corner’ right next to UVA in Charlottesville. It’s sad how seedy they have to be when there’s such a distinction of class starting two blocks off campus.

The list sort of breaks down from there into things which are college specific, meaning any college can do them or has already done them, and things that every college in America does because they’re all colleges. I’ll go into angry specifics.

College Specific

#1 I don’t disagree with accepting sexual equality or think it’s a bad thing or want to discredit ODU at all, but the thing about true acceptance and cutting back on ignorant ideas is to stop mentioning those ideas and simply live in modern times. Waving our acceptance as a flag that brings more notice misses the point, and naming a specific faculty member as the unofficial spokesperson is in poor taste. Yes ODU is big on equality, but don’t brag about it: people who went there are still aware of the awful ‘Lavender House‘ idea which would’ve been detrimental to having the LGBT community feel comfortable going to school in Norfolk. And it’s not like other colleges are kicking diversity out.

#2 The library and graphic design club did things that other colleges haven’t done, which are cool, but it’s not like other colleges have been taking weeks off wishing they could go to our beach. In regards to having 250 people comment on the same topic at the same time- Facebook and twitter already do that during the Super Bowl and VMAs, ODU just edited it for content afterwards. Having a school specific video game does sound pretty cool, but it reminds me of the 2-bit Old Spice video game that had Dikembe Mutombo save the world by throwing cheeseburgers.

#3 “ODU has a large international presence and offers hundreds of study abroad options, but we only have a measely ‘248’ students enrolled in them.” You shot yourself in the foot. Out of 11k students, less than 3% try the study abroad program. I know why because I’ve tried, and the paperwork is tedious then impossible.

#4 The woman’s bathroom in MGB. I’ll give you that one. Fine. I’ve never been in the woman’s bathroom, and I’ve never been in the men’s becuase MGB is sandwiched between two construction sites next to the Webb and the shut Elkhorn Ave down so I have no reason to walk on that side of campus unless I’m headed to Constant- and they have new bathrooms anyway.

All Colleges Everywhere

#1 Having an arts program- I don’t even want to argue this. Please find a university without an arts program. Number 8 is irrelevant.

#2 Every college promotes diversity. It doesn’t suck that we’re in the majority of every college everywhere to accept diversity, but that’s not a reason to choose ODU over anyone else. There are 25K students, 13K are full time, 5K are graduate students, 4K are distance learning in different cities, 2K who go full time commute more than 20 miles to get there, 50% of the estimated 11K left are white, 25% are black, 6% are latino, and the percentages decrease from there. Reason 7 is garbage.

#3 Seize the day. Ugh. I don’t even want to use sentences because I had to reread about ‘turning up, never turning down’ and ‘we yolo*.’ At least my post now cancels her’s out because we both used ‘yolo’ and no one educated should take a brick of words seriously if it has ‘yolo’ in it. Well done. Everyone in college would like to think they party hard, but unless you’re the guys who put up an illegal fence in under 24 hours, threw a party, and had everyone on the lease promptly arrested that same night, you haven’t achieved ‘go hard’ status. People don’t comment on our Springfest or Quadfest or even tailgating. They do however comment on our crime log, which was my personal favorite part of the school newspaper. If you go and count, that’s an average of four crimes a day-on campus. As for ODU confessions, half of them are serious and sad posts, and the others get down-voted by our awesome acceptance.

*On a grammatical note, the phrase ‘we yolo’ means we you only live once. Aside from the fact that we live every day, the phrasing in Ms. Mayfield’s article doesn’t do her ODU education justice.

The Ending

I went to ODU for my own reasons and I’ll be happy with those reasons eventually, but I want to exhume any of the flat out lies they give on those campus tours. Although the education was first-rate, the policing for actual crime is terrible, and I’ve found bones in my hamburger more than once. I’ve seen 400 parking spots cut for no reason, parking expenses for students who didn’t buy a parking pass (in 2012) go up by over 200 dollars, and every party I went to within one block of campus busted by the police. According to College.niche, ODU is ranked third to last in VA for drug use and we have a high average for reported cases of rape. It has great academics, but don’t lie and say it has a great atmosphere for the ridiculous cost that attributes to the second fountain that floods the dorm quad once a week in the spring.

Not a ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Finale Recap

Not a 'How I Met Your Mother' Finale Recap

On March 31, 2014, the TV sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ rolled out its hour long finale to the expectation, frustration, and relief of fans and viewers who were hoping to see numerous mysteries tied up after being alluded to for entire seasons. Enough blogs and recaps have been written about how some things find resolution and how the ending doesn’t sit well with a lot of die-hard fans.

People who were hoping for a fairytale ending were hit with realism instead. Timelines aren’t perfect, relationships aren’t perfect, and not every look is filled with drastic passion. While the ultimate resolution does not make everyone smile in the same way that they did when Ted first went from romantic gesture to romantic gesture, the five minutes before the ending make the series more than worth it.

Throughout the seasons, although sometimes loosely for episodes at a time, the main character Ted discusses how me met his wife with his two children. This original lens and intro that fell away in the ninth season came full circle in the finale when Ted explained why he needed to meet the mother instead of how. Admittedly, some of the more creative choices in this season’s episodes fell flat, but the writers saved the most jarring and emotionally pivotal thoughts for Ted’s last monologues.

In what can easily and completely taken out of the context of the show, he talks about time passing, making the hard choices, and realizing how good the small moments can be when you have the right people next to you. When so many things in life seem dark, there are people. He sums up the whole point of the show, and then some. ‘Love is the best thing we do.’

The other moment that should blow fans away is the final montage of the main characters. Each one is shown alongside a clip of themselves from the first season, and it’s incredible to think of the timeline of this show. They kept up with current events in a very SNL-esque way over the course of nine years. The characters have grown up next to their fans for nine years. Anyone who cannot remember where they were- and who they were- after finishing the first season cannot weigh in on how expected, unexpected, or cliche the ending was. Ted met the hell out of that mother and the onscreen time together is a metaphor for the time they got to spend with each other in the grand scheme of things.

Love it or hate it, this show was a huge cultural phenomenon that included many phrases and archetypal symbols that helped viewers find themselves. After nine whole years of being huge prime time television, everyone gets on with their futures. Anyone who’s seen most of the show can remember what it was like to care and follow a character’s life like an actual friend. Imagine extending ‘The Bachelor’ craze over almost a decade: ‘who will he choose this week?’ Shows that do well and do well often and stay on a major network for this long do not come very often, and much like Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has created season ticket holders who will own and love and discuss and compare the show to their and other people’s lives for years.

Response to ‘Bossy’ Response

Men are the pursuers of women. They think of something to say, approach women at bars, ask them out, pick them up, and usually pay for dinner because it’s expected and polite. For the most part, and in most cultures, this has been the natural order since cave men chose and dragged cave women back home, and cliches have filled in accordingly. Strong cases have been made for blatant sexism in business and media; the Bechdel Test and the ‘Glass Ceiling’ come to mind.  Rightfully so, women should not only be allowed, but encouraged, to go after exactly what they want in life without societal pressure or stereotyping which may speak badly about who they are as people. Some women are more direct or vocal than others just as some men get nervous just thinking about approaching a cute girl. Everyone is different, but it takes a while to get there.

Learning what society expects and ultimately accepts starts at a very young age, and it’s unfortunate how a lack of information has continued to hinder women from making decisions without feeling judged. A lot of little girls who inherently desire to be leaders and decision makers are unconsciously- and sometimes consciously- told that it’s impolite to speak up. Recently, Sheryl Sandberg, businesswoman and COO of Facebook, launched the campaign ‘Ban Bossy‘ to give notice to and cut back on admonishing girls who aren’t as docile as society wants them to be. Boys who take charge are seen as independent and driven leaders, whereas girls who do the same have been described as pushy, impatient, forward, and bossy because most adults are still used to the old way of thinking that men make decisions and women respond. According to Susan D. Witt’s article from the University of Akron, upholding these gender stereotypes of boys acting more physical and loud- compared to girls being emotional and gentle- may be beneficial to children becoming more comfortable with themselves and making decisions, but can damage a number of latent interests and talents that wouldn’t be explored through gender specific activities. Furthermore, pushing children towards certain activities can hinder their decision making as they get older, extending into the business world and relationships. This perpetuates gender limits and instills society in kids before they have a chance to figure it out on their own.

The immediate response to ‘Ban Bossy’ is an overreaction that nothing is wrong. Statistics from the Ban Bossy page about girls growing up not raising their hands for not wanting to look like a know-it-all are unfounded, and people with the means to publicly support this cause are more in favor of the adage that all kids are loud and bossy. Psychologist BJ Gallagher believes that not telling girls when they’re bossy- when they’re actually bossy- will cause them to develop poor interpersonal skills because no one told them when to listen. It is fine and permissible to point out when a child, boy or girl, is being loud, rude, and demanding, but Sandberg’s cause is making known the connotation that certain words are taking on when it comes to being social. Ms. Gallagher means well, but her article features quotes about leadership from leaders, and not from the parents and teachers of young children who have seen a child shut down for the afternoon after being told that trying to direct other students (as the team leader) was out of line.

It makes sense to stem assertion when it goes too far, but after decades and centuries of expecting women to remain quiet in the shadows, isn’t it fair to let individual girls and women figure out where that line is without societal implications? Everyone has different upbringings and intentions, and potentially bossy girls have just as much a right to be left alone as boys who refuse to speak up in class do.

Stop Hating Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps, infamous pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, died on March 29th, not as a member of the church he created in the 90s. Phelps has been well known in the public eye for protesting and picketing funerals of celebrities and military soldiers, targeting various groups of people with blunt and simple statements. These groups of people include homosexuals, minorities, practitioners of Judaism, immigrants, and politicians, to name a few. What’sunfortunate about the media coverage of this man’s death is the same pigeon-holing that made Phelps famous is now being used to color him in the opening statements of articles and blogs as a way to engage the reader.

Any sort of searching online will list events and evidence of Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church, or WBC, physically at the funerals of U.S soldiers and various well known people such as TV’s Fred Rogers and Frank Sinatra. The WBC has a history of taking a harsh stance on God’s acceptance and mercy, using picket signs like ‘God hates fag,’ ‘Thank God for 9/11,’ and ‘Repent or perish.’ These are facts. A lot of people seem to stop after the first glance because it is hard to imagine insulting someone’s funeral and family, especially a soldier’s, in order to push a religious agenda. Society deems that rude, but judging Phelps and his supporters- mostly members of his family- promotes the same level of judgement that the WBC puts on their signs. In the Bible all sin is sin, John 5:17 states that no sin is greater than another. Why feed into one person’s opinion, whether it’s right or wrong? Who cares if anyone disagrees with Phelps’ declarations? Simply ignore him or act on the things you believe in.

There’s a well forgotten Treehouse of Horror Simpson’s episode featuring life size advertisements and billboards who come to life and terrorize Springfield. Lisa figures out that the ads need attention to stay current, so she tells everyone to ignore their building smashing despite the instinct to look on. Once everyone stops caring the ads go away. Fred Phelps’ passing and cultural impact won’t go away as quickly as a cartoon, and his death should be reported in the news, but letting personal belief fuel the information misses the point.

A few blogs and radio hosts are guilty of letting their feelings get the better of them, but it’s better not to call them out. The hate stops here. And hating the hate promotes nothing. If the news of Fred Phelps is a silent victory for anyone personally persecuted by people who speak out against what they do not understand or agree with then good, please feel more at ease, but try not to spread any opinions about someone passing away. Let the people who knew Fred Phelps verbally remember him and share stories about his life, but the people far removed from the issue have better issues to discuss on long car rides. CNN does a fair job of presenting the facts of Phelp’s life, and the search tabs describing more negative things about him unnecessarily slow computers down.

Movie Plug?

It’s exciting and empowering to see a favorite actor in something outside of what they can already do. After being in a string of dramas for an episode at a time, Josh Radnor hit it big with the lead role in ‘How I met Your Mother’ as Ted. He has played a neurotic, love-sick, big city architect who explains how he met his wife- even though he consistently misses the big picture- for the better part of the last decade. In their last of their nine seasons, he’s done fairly well, but hasn’t really been in anything except for his self-directed film ‘Liberal Arts‘ which was shown at Sundance in 2012. For ‘Afternoon Delight,’ Josh plays the opposite of a man trying to find true love as Jeff, a preoccupied app designer living in the suburbs outside of L.A. Technically being the biggest name in the cast, Radnor kept this film from escaping my radar.

The movie centers on the life of housewife Rachel, played by Kathryn Hahn, who has played a slew of best friends and raunchy second options since ‘How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days’ in 2003. Action drags in the first 15 minutes because that’s what Rachel’s life feels like as she runs motherly errands, cancels on ‘booster-mom’ events, and admits nothing to her psychologist over the course of a week. The big hook of the movie comes after an impromptu visit to a strip club, where Rachel sees the abnormally young stripper- who gave her a lap dance- on the street. Rachel lets her stay at her house, babysit her 6 year old, and confides that her life feels incomplete.

Various expected things happen when it comes to a stripper living in an upstanding community, and Rachel loses all of her friends after the stripper, McKenna, sleeps with one of Rachel’s friend’s husband. What’s jarring and awkward and kills the movie for viewers also makes it a movie worth mentioning. The aftermath of McKenna bringing everyone’s desires to the surface occurs too quickly and most of the characters, who were introduced with labels to begin with, try to brush past everything that happened. This reaction is honest and petty because that’s what real people do in their lives- they sweep away problems and live on appearances.

The movie didn’t get mass appeal because Rachel’s need to apologize and work through every relationship is scary to imagine. She had a solid block of ten poor decisions that wrecked what she pretended that she had going for her in life. Dwelling any longer on the characters or the issues brought up would’ve felt like a movie, so a number of heavy topics were introduced and immediately ignored while Rachel tries to make it work with Jeff (Radnor), as time in the film runs out. Their patching up everything which had been building during the movie is far-fetched at best, but it concludes well because Rachel decides to be happy now that she’s not lying to anyone about being unhappy or doing things for show.

Some of the issues the movie tries to pack in the last 15 minutes are using drugs beyond your 20s, actually being happy, not fixing simple miscommunications, fidelity and suspicion , not having sex while married, holding onto dreams, how much routine sucks, and being supported by your spouse. All of these are ignited by McKenna, who is only mentioned once after she is asked to leave during the climax.

There is an undercurrent theme that I did not spoil, so that’s fun, and if there is something being unsaid in your life, watch this movie and know that you’re not alone, and that it will be extremely awkward. At least you being honest won’t be filmed, hopefully.

Unburnt Dessert

I wonder if I can remember it all, or if it was at all memorable, or if it even happened. And a small part of me wants to keep it to myself because nothing else in my life has been secret for more than a day. Although I’m writing, do I ever give the entire story away, or does part of it belong to the person I shared the moment with? Maybe they’re that much less careless with their memories and know exactly why they shouldn’t misremember the other night. Is it better to try and physically capture an event as it is, completely, or simply let it expand into more of a fantasy each time it’s remembered? I’m afraid to choose the second. But if I do copy movements and sunlight exactly as they are, does the past change when I miss a fingertip or the exact sound of a door closing? Do the people reading it capture my meaning exactly as I want them to—exactly like I felt sitting and reading, and waiting for her to come back from the other room?

 

It was the smallest house I’ve ever been in, but it still managed to contain everything a house needs to be a home for a family of four. You could tour every doorway from the entrance of the split level, but privacy was never the intention for who was meant to live in it. The size was perfect for the amount of pots and pans stacked up against sets of unused plates and the amount of sound coming out of the single speaker next to the dining room table. I don’t recall any of the words except a few phrases from Rod Stewart, but every song fit between the gaps of looking at each other and looking at our food. When I wasn’t cutting vegetables with a knife that was too sharp for my skill level, I tried to find ways that I could casually put my arm around her waist for a few seconds. Every time we came close to passing each other to get at the stove or sink, the kitchen floor seemed to open up so that we could Charleston in place and still not come within five feet of each other. I finally resolved myself to looking into her eyes and pressing her up against the counter, as if she had other plans to avoid me the entire evening. This broke the silence of our lips, and dinner became more of an appetizer of words before we could be seated closer to each other.

 

Each kiss asked for another, until it became illogical not to press our bodies against each other, and excuses were made for our clothes that were simply in the way. The reluctance of every party in the room made saying yes so much sweeter, and the awkward, unfamiliar steps that led to her room gave no indication of how well we had been studying each other’s bodies the entire evening. Moments that went by too quickly were redeemed with lips that refused to leave certain areas; further excuses sounded more like playful pleas to appreciate what other people had told us was wrong. I took my time unfolding her in the moonlight—so that I could push as much of myself against her chest and stomach and thighs—to her verbal impatience and satisfaction, but the night didn’t give off as much light as she did, and I forgot to memorize how her shadows looked. Her fingers traced out words on my neck, telling me that I would have enough time to do that later.

My Actual Cover Letter

To whom it may concern,

I really wish I knew who I was speaking to. Your website’s navigation was confusing at best, and I really didn’t find any contact numbers in your directory/about page/frequently asked questions. Speaking of questions, what does your company actually do?

Conversations do not start out this formally and there is no one I plan to meet who I won’t ask for their name. By not being able to find who I am addressing, I’m immediately disheartened and disadvantaged, but I’m applying anyway.

Whoever you are, I’m a recent college graduate who could be a big risk and liability to your company, but I could also help you out in a number of aspects because I haven’t been tarnished by the business world and I haven’t owned my ties for 20 years. I have great ideas as well as stupid ideas, but at least I have them. I heard even more good ones while in college and there are a bunch of things that are still in my short term memory that I can use to further… whatever it is I may be doing at your company.

The fact is that I really don’t care what job you give me because I will be lucky and scared to have anything. Like the rest of my graduating class I have no professional experience and short of that spring break in another country where I put four years of Spanish to good use, I’m not sure what all of those courses just amounted to- but I’m very nervous and excited to find out. My entire life people have been telling me how much potential I have and how if I don’t agree with something I should be the one to go out and change it. Well here I am trying to get my foot in the door with a Walmart bag full of enthusiasm to prove myself, and you see me as nothing but a resume in an inbox marked ‘entry level.’ I can’t really blame you, because I can’t imagine working with some of the people who graduated with me, but honestly, I stayed awake during most of my classes and got a lot more than those slackers did. Did the applicant under me mention that he used to bring a pillow to ‘History of the English Language’ and had a friend wake him up when the professor said something worth knowing?

Regardless of what I put on here about education or skills or experience, I’m disappointed to know that it’s about who you know. What happens if you’re brilliant and don’t know everyone because you were unaware that they’d be offended by you pointing out their argumentative fallacies in debate class? I went to college to learn, not market myself as the guy who fell out of a two story window and was too ‘hardcore’ to go to the hospital. Somehow that guy has a real job now because the window owner’s father knows a guy in IT management and nothing about the cost of windows. But seriously, nothing in this letter is going to jump out at you and make you shake your head like I actually know what I’m talking about or that I was raised with a very specific work ethic of not quitting. If standing out is about buzzwords then I’m screwed because I’m original. I don’t know what I can contribute or invent or suggest, but I can tell it’ll be something great in five years. That’s where I see myself in five years, making something that creates a difference, but everybody gets to put that in a letter and pretend they mean it.

Sarcasm aside, it must be hard and difficult to call up the liars for interviews and notice that they don’t remember applying to your specific company. Everybody with their name on a door or a banner ad deserves respect because they made it just like everyone getting out of college is trying to. Current companies and hiring managers beat the system to get where they are now, and I want to be there. I don’t care if it’s taking out the trash or sorting mail or getting coffee; one day someone will forget how lucky they are to have the position they’re in and they won’t want to answer a call or reply to an invoice, and I’ll be there for the chance to make more than is barely able to pay my rent. I’ll do that job if it gets my name remembered for an hour.

The talented, lost ‘adults’ of my generation have to apply to dozens of companies at a time because the business world is already set with their arms crossed and they like the way things have been running. Hiring someone brand new is never welcomed, only necessary. With my greenness comes hopeful ignorance and energy which you can mold into whatever kind of employee you may need. So I’m sorry that I don’t remember your company’s mission statement or have two years’ experience in an office setting. I’m asking for those two years now, and I’ll try to absorb as much as I possibly can. But for some reason I can’t express that in an email directed to you because that would seem unprofessional.

I just have to hope that my name gets picked out of an online generator which has scanned my files for key words fitting the job responsibilities, and I think I thank you for your consideration, if this gets me considered.

Sincerely.

Take a chance.

Defending Robin Thicke’s Blurred Argument

Robin Thicke released the hit single ‘Blurred Lines’ in March of 2013 with the help of Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr., better known as T.I. Almost immediately the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and both the accompanying music videos and lyrics fell under scrutiny as being offensive to women, derisive, misogynistic, and favorable towards ‘rape culture.’ In order to understand the cultural significance of any commentary, article, or parody the song created since then, it becomes essential to separate the song and its lyrics from the overt music video that was banned from Youtube in less than a week.

The first two pages of searching ‘Blurred Lines Parody’ on Youtube reveals 17 original videos commenting and insulting the lyrics, the huge setback in feminism, the double standards, the absurd nudity in the original video, and the song writers’ intelligence and personalities. Clearly this was a widely contested song, but Robin Thicke won on all accounts. If Miley Cyrus has taught celebrities anything, it’s that controversy sells. Even hating the song and video causes people to talk about it with more people, who are then compelled to watch the video and listen to the song over and over again in order to know what to hate and comment on. Most of the parody’s are done phenomenally in terms of references and syllables per beat, so the people that created these videos had to get every shot of the original ‘Blurred Lines’ in order to look professional. Imagine how many times those Youtubers have listened to the song to get inspiration for their hatred? And the parodies all revert back to the original, which gains more notoriety because it stands ahead of all this original content.

Regarding the video(s), the content prompted much of the background, material, and references seen in the parodies. The explicit version of the music video contains hash tags that fill the screen, a misplayed banjo, three topless women, a live goat, sunglasses indoors, hay, a model car, a barber’s chair, foam fingers, a stuffed dog, an over-sized bicycle, ice cream, foam dice, cigarettes, an over-sized needle, platform shoes, letter shaped balloons, and a paintball mask, to name a few props. These serve as objects of scrutiny for the parodies, but if that list seems fairly random that’s because it is. Director of the video, Diane Martel, had much to say in the way of satire with the random objects that the singers and models literally play with during the video.  Of course there are no symbols in the hay, car, dog, chair, and other objects because that’s not the point of the song. All of these things simply clutter the set and make viewers want to scrutinize the song for what it isn’t.

Choosing to stop at the first mention instead of looking for context results in opinions like Elizabeth Plank’s. Her ‘Feminist Takedown’ post is full of generalizations and conjunction fallacies which forces the reader to think that Thicke is being creepy and sexist. Definitive statements and brash language leaves little room for interpretation but gives Plank less than a leg to stand on. Apparently only the video is worse than the lyrics, the lyrics are ‘rapey,’ and the video objectifies women in what can only be construed as seriously and insulting. Robin Thicke’s quotes are taken out of context and generalized again, and the models in the video have their opinions separated from being proud of their bodies and choices, because sexism is an issue you can’t overcome. Plank brushes over what the director and head model, Emily Ratajkowski, were going for with their farce and dismisses the idea that the video could be ironic. Any questions raised while reading are buried by a rape statistic, which is a slippery slope from a popular radio song. Please read her counter argument.

The point of even shooting a very topless version was to poke at the cultural commentary that would surround the supposed theme of the song. Having dancing, topless women around fully clothed men was supposed to subjugate the usual formula of hip-hop music videos by going way over the top- which it did. But many critics and viewers took the joke too far and thought that the three admittedly married men were actually serious in their demeanor towards women. Quotes and sound bytes that followed from Thicke did not stymie the situation, as he kept up the charade of degrading women and didn’t think people could take this seriously. The video and props and especially balloons are supposed to be laughed at and commented on and the hash tags are a good suggestion as to where people can keep the song and video current.

As to the lyrics, many sources refer to ‘Rolling Stone’s long time writer and editor, Rob Sheffield. In December Sheffield came out with an article which claimed that ‘Blurred Lines’ is the worst song he has heard since at least 2001. He flaunts his musical knowledge by dropping references to artists and bands from last year to 1992 while he looks for his soapbox. The point of the song is misrepresented in comparison to Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up,’ which Thicke and Williams had said was inspiration for writing the song. As a modern representation of Gaye’s hit, it really does sound like ‘a guy trying miserably hard to get it right,’ but Sheffield reached the wrong conclusion. His generalization that Thicke tries the same warble in order to prove his ‘worthiness’ to the music community is unfounded and before Sheffield can back up his own points he attempts a math joke about the nature of lines. Following the crickets, the article fizzles out with a more outdated references, including Cat Stevens and Stone Temple Pilots. Music has evolved since the 1990s and not all of it is bad.  

The reason this still needs discussing is the misinformed analysis of the lyrics. Many people have assumed or been told that the song is about convincing a girl that she wants to have sex, regardless of her position. ‘I know you want it,’ which is repeated 18 times during the song, serves as the major defense for this claim. To the casual listener, that phrase is more than enough and all other references can be ignored. Fifty three seconds and two verses separate the beginning of the song and the chorus which begins with: ‘and that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl.’ The first stanza, characterized by, ‘maybe I’m going blind,’ simply asks the recipient of the speaker to correct them if he/she is wrong. The next stanza is what listeners really seem to miss on their way to the catchy chorus and it’s infamous phrase that makes people jump to rape.

Okay now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
You don’t need no papers
That man is not your maker

Apparently the last guy, ‘he,’ tried to tame the recipient, presumably a woman, against what she actually desires. The singer, in this case Thicke, is there to remind her that no one can tell her what to do. Diction like ‘domesticate’ hints at a house, which is backed up by ‘papers,’ referring to a marriage license which do tell someone what they can and can’t do when it comes to more ‘animalistic’ behavior. The listener can assume, from the second line, that it’s normal to be an animal, but Thicke isn’t forcing that idea on the girl because he asks her to correct him in the first stanza. The choice is the woman’s.

Proceeding to the chorus,Thicke states that is talking to a ‘good girl.’ He sandwiches his suggestion of her wanting it, albeit in a more than casual tone, with the rebuttal that she is indeed a ‘good girl.’ There are small references to not missing what he has noticed about her before saying, ‘I hate these blurred lines.’ The blurred lines do not refer to the girl wanting it or not, but the juxtaposition that she is a good girl, a real girl, with an animalistic nature, who happens to be grabbing at him. He assumes she wants to ‘get nasty,’ but leaves the choice up to her with the final line: ‘go ahead, get at me.’

The rest of the song follows pretty regularly- the girl is complimented for her looks, T.I describes what he would do to her with unsavory imagery, and drugs are introduced to help the girl stop feeling guilty for what she actually wants to do. Nothing suggests that Thicke or T.I is coercing or forcing the girl to do anything she may not want to.

As a final note, the reason for doing an explicit version instead of stopping at the old fashioned ‘girls in bikinis dancing’ version furthers the idea of choice for women. Women constantly complain about having to wear bras, so why not go without? Society tells women that they have to or they will be leered at by everyone and seen as overtly sexual. The women in the video shake off societal guilt and dance around freely and much more comfortably than the oddly shaped bikini tops they wear in the ‘regular’ version of the music video.