Thursday, October 27, 2005

Rant time

Between school, work, preparing for a trip to the west coast, and trying to gather and read the books for next week’s installment of Overdue Books, I’ve got no reviews or relevant comic book commentary today. Sorry. In the interest of living up to the title "The Daily Burn," I’m about to bitch about my life. Sorry again.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I met a frustrating road bump in my academic life recently. Actually, no. Not a road bump. It’s more like I realized I wasn’t driving in the wrong direction, but was going two hours out of my way for no reason. This is my third semester back in college, and I was only just informed that I was not responsible for certain General Education requirements (e.g., Foreign language, Math, Information literacy, cross-cultural studies, etc.). My school’s current Gen Ed policy came into effect in 2000, and it was decided that students who earned any credits at any school before 2000 were excused from those requirements. I attended a universty in Florida between 95 and 97. In the meantime, I have either completed or am in the progress of completing a total of 18 credits since attending my new school specifically to fulfill the Gen Ed stuff. It may not seem like a lot perhaps, until you consider that I took 15 credits last Fall, that was the largest number of credits I took in a single semester since returning to school, I've been here for 3 semesters, meaning that - in terms of time, work, etc. - completing these unnecessary classes represent more than a semester’s worth of work. It’s as if you took an entire semester’s worth of my work, balled it up, tossed it over your shoulder, and gave me the finger.

Twelve of those credits aren’t worth worrying about. They’re done, they gave me two A’s and a B, so no big deal. I’m taking the other six this semester. Two classes: World Cities and History of England. If I withdraw, no more financial aid. Instead, I petitioned the Dean of Undergraduate Studies to waive the deadline of declaring classes pass/fail on the basis that the officious bastards never informed me that I didn’t need the classes I signed up for (for those unfamiliar with the stupidity that is university bureaucracy, “pass/fail” means that you get credit for taking a class but it neither helps nor hurts you overall Grade Point Average, and you usually only have a certain amount of time - often within the first few weeks of the semester - to declare a class or classes pass/fail) . In order to even have the petition considered, I needed signatures from each professor attesting to the fact that I’m still going to class (which I am).

The World Cities professor was no problem. World Cities is a big 200+ lecture course, the professor was notably busy when I visited him, so I figure he would’ve signed anything I handed him just to get me out of his hair.

The history professor was a bit trickier.

Just to skip the foreplay, yes, he did sign it. But he made me pay for it. For a half hour, he looked at the sheet I wanted him to sign, sighed, read the letter addressed to the Dean, sighed, flipped through my degree audit (which was attached to the sheet in order to prove that I had been mislead as to my Gen Ed requirements), sighed some more, and just fucking refused to fucking get it. It was like asking my parents to borrow money. I know they’re going to fork it over, but not before a good lecture.

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re not going to get less than a B, anyway.”

“I think this is a mistake.”

“I don’t understand. You have a good GPA.”

Yeah, and I’d like to fucking keep it. I mean, hey, if I had a 2.1 GPA, I’d understand what he was saying, because what’ve you got to lose at that point? You might as well step up to the plate and try to do what you can to make your diploma more meaningful than toilet paper.

I think more because of my girlfriend’s accounts of the downside of teaching than anything else, I understand the guy’s problem. If you stand in front of a bunch of strangers, talking about something that you have devoted your professional life to (and probably a good deal of your free time), you want to feel like those strangers are listening. And maybe you’re worried that someone trying to take the class pass-fail just wants to skim through without doing anything.

But at the same time, I’m there every day. I’m one of the more vocal students in the class. I get the distinct feeling that, even now after he signed the paper, I’m one of a small number of students who actually reads the required texts. If I was the guy who always comes in ten minutes late and never speaks, I’d say he had valid concerns. But that ain’t me. I don’t care whether I signed on to the course because it was a requirement or because I thought it would change my life. If I’m there, I’m fucking THERE. I don’t have enough time to spend what little I have twiddling my thumbs and staring at the ceiling.

Here’s the thing. Here’s the big, BIG thing that scares me.

Last semester, using my Marxist Theory paper on Batman to do so (hey, who said this post wasn’t comic book-related), I got into the English Honors program. In order to stay in the program, I need to maintain a 3.25 overall GPA, and a 3.5 GPA in my English courses. Right now, my overall is 3.76, my English is 3.85. So, I’m not in any imminent danger.

I didn’t apply to the program to impress potential employers, impress other English students, or beef up my chances of grad school acceptance.

I did it because as a member of the Honors program, I have the opportunity to work on a thesis project in my senior year (9/06-5/07). I’m also allowed the option of a creative thesis (i.e., writing short stories, poems, screenplays, a novella, etc.).

I think I won’t be overgeneralizing when I say that for anyone who’s a creative writer and in an undergraduate program - with the exception of those who are lucky enough to be in a creative writing program (I was a Writing major in my old school, but it’s not offered as a major in my current one) - the most frustrating things are the amount of material you have to read and write, how little of it is anything you want to read and write, and how little time it affords you to work on your own stuff. I can’t express how maddening it is to have to forcibly shove the excitement I feel towards a new idea for a short story, poem, or an essay for the blog or CBG because I have a paper to write on the rise and fall of the Iron Age Kingdom of Meroe.

As an unpublished writer who doesn’t want to remain unpublished, the opportunity to have an entire year to finally develop my own creative writing project for college credit, and to essentially have people who are paid to give me constructive feedback on my work, is a gift from Zeus. I can’t put a price on that. It will probably be the single most relevant project I’ll work on in college, and I can’t imagine that anyone would think that it’s okay to threaten the loss of that opportunity because I remembered a few less facts than I should have about the fucking Battle of Agincourt. Fuck the Battle of Agincourt. French people fought English people. What a startling fucking milestone.

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