21 February, 2014

The Spurned Spawn of The Gator Men

J.R. Skelton, Grendel's Mother (1908)
Since I spent most of last week on the northern side of the dirty sacred river, my plan was to write a bit more about Cincinnati.  I had the set up and everything. In case you missed it, or have forgotten -- not that I've lost faith in you, Dear Readers, but Memeworld is a busy place -- but here's the post on this blog's Facebook page* about where Cincinnati got it's name.

Getting back to River City, though, I find myself distracted by the Gator Men. More specifically, the spurned spawn of the Gator Men who, having been rejected and evicted from the murky mud that helped spawn them, inflict their misery and damnation upon whoever crosses their paths.

Sponsored by The One-eyed Jack, The Suicide King, and the numbers 1 and 11.
I have, in the past, referred to these horrible, soulless hell-critters as bean counters**. It occurs to me, however, that in doing so I am insulting both beans -- which are delicious and nutritious when properly prepared -- and to counting -- which I've been doing from an early age thanks to Sesame Street and the game of Blackjack.

While setting up home base here in River City (SOUTH SIDE!!!!) with The Traveller's Angel (Amanda) -- garden planning, home repair practicing, bread baking, canning, fermenting, and brewing all included -- I am also doing a stint of teaching at a community college. This is my second semester back in the institution I once swore I'd never return to -- the institution of higher cost edumacation, that is. The truth is, I enjoy being in the classroom and I get a charge out of teaching, and it's one of the few skills I have that is both useful and can bring in a little scratch. I'm a part-timer, of course. This frees me from the horrible obligation of committee work as well as from such niceties as a retirement and benefits package.

The student population ranges across the spectrum in age from recent high school graduates to retired grandmothers. Two of my current students -- we'll call them Sara and Sammy -- are up against a wall that, while I did not build it, I feel obligated to tilt at in some fashion. Sara is close to what used to be called the "traditional" college student. She's white, maybe in her early 20's. Like most students now who are not star athletes, good test takers, or borne of rich parents, Sara also holds down a job. She attends the college I teach at because it's still cheaper than that Other Kentucky University here in River City. She lives with her grandmother across the dirty sacred river in Indiana.

Sammy is an older black man. He can' use his legs, so he gets around in a wheel chair. He has admitted to me that he's been to prison -- though he was also particular enough to point out that he never killed anyone. Sammy is going to school because it's something to do and something I suspect he has always wanted to do.

But Sammy doesn't know anything about computers. He was told in the Admissions office that it wasn't important, that he'd pick it up. They told him he would have help. Then they sent him to through Financial Aid, who took his money, and pushed him through. Sara doesn't have internet access and home and limited computer access. They took her money, too, and sent her down the gullet and into the stomach of the beast.

Because larger institutions are less interested in developmental classes, students who lack some basic academic skills end up attending community college because 1) it's cheaper and 2) there's a misconception, sometimes encouraged by burned out faculty, that a community college is nothing more than a glorified high school.

More on point, though, higher cost edumacation is not glorified high school. It is not some cultural or economic right of passage. It is, in fact, a three-headed hydra.

Faculty and academic departmental staff comprise one head. If there is one of the three heads that least desires to eat people's hearts and burn out their souls, it is this head.

The second head is the Admissions Office. College presidents (or the CEO, as he is referred to at the grand institution where I currently teach) and the Admissions counselors have one goal: they want asses in the seats. Their job is to prove they deserve their jobs by filling up as many seats -- in real time seats and online ones -- as they possibly can. The Administrators -- who are, coincidentally, some of those spurned spawn of the Gator People, rejected and cursed to walk dry land knowing full well they are only whole when they are in the river among their own kind -- have the additional task of ensuring that teachers are underpaid and students are overcharged, creating a system designed to suck the life, the patience, and the promise out of every warm-blooded living thing that enters that sinewy, slobbering maw. The Admissions Office is responsible for feeding the beast. And it's appetite is never sated. Ever.

The third head -- and in this case, the head spews hot burning acid rather than potentially cleansing fire -- is the Financial Aid Office. They see students as dollar signs. More students = more dollar signs. And that means more dollars. Financial Aid counselors don't see problems. They see a way to profit from the misconception of potential students.

Once the paperwork is signed, though, there's no clear notion of where to find all the assistance. It's part of the game. We'll take you in, the Financial aid counselors -- also spurned spawn of the Gator Men --  hiss. We'll take you in and you'll figure out. You will never succeed without the piece of paper only WE can provide for you. Your children will go hungry. Your parents will be disappointed in you. You will never achieve anything. 

Another one of my students was surprised when I told her about a few people I've known who, inspite of their college degrees, still ended up working low-paying hourly jobs. There's no guarantee I said. It has never been offered. I told her Your chances improve, that's true. But having a better chance is not the same thing.

But that's not the message they get from television commercials and the grand marketeers of Memeworld. They are told college degree = money and success. They are made to feel like they're less if they don't offer themselves up for sacrifice to the three headed beast and to the spurned spawn of the gator men, who use economic blackmail to take us all down for a death roll.


*Cincinnati was originally called Losantiville, which is a MADE UP WORD. Ville, of course, is the French term for town or village. Losanti was a mash up in 1788 by Mathias Denman. Not only is it a mash up, but it's a mash up in two different languages -- Greek, and Latin. It is supposed mean "City opposite the mouth of the Licking River." The "L" is the only hold over from the name of the Licking River. Os is Latin for mouth, and anti is Greek for opposite. This, for me, says a lot about the confused character of the city even to this day.
** From the Parsons Dictionary of Oft Used Words and Phrases, Compendium Edition.
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