Today, I begin the second week of this eight-week term at SNHU. I have no plans to do a weekly roundup or anything like that, but since this is my first week at school since leaving UH back in April 2001, I thought it would be a good idea to jot down my thoughts. They basically boil down to:
Why yes, I do still hate academia.
I started with two classes (full time) during this term. One was a blow-off class, English Comp I. I tried to get out of this as I’ve taken so many literature and writing and analysis courses already, but UH made us take this special class that mixed Eng Comp I with a humanities course, and thus it isn’t transferable as anything other than a humanities elective. Yay! In any case, it won’t be difficult, and it’s a good way to ease back into school while becoming familiar with SNHU’s online system.
The second course was Sociology of Social Problems – a sophomore level class that I needed for upper level sociology courses. I was actually interested in this course…until I met the professor. Brief description: elderly ex-military man who spends a lot of time talking about all the cool things he does like fly into hurricanes and motorcycle across the country, who drops random “lol”s into the syllabus, and who copy/pastes his replies to student introductions and project proposals on the discussion boards. This alone made me cringe, but then there came the actual project proposal.
Here’s the thing. I love learning. Like, I would read the sociology textbook for this class for fun. I’d happily read the book, listen to lectures, participate in discussions, do research, write papers, and take tests. But the project for this class is “creative.” We have to pretend that we’ve been given an assignment by government officials that will then justify all the research, writing, and analysis, and then we have to submit a proposal for the fake government official to prove we’ve learned stuff. Oh. God. No. I detest these kinds of assignments. Please just let me learn and prove I’ve learned??
Still, that’s the big project, so I picked out a subject to work with. It needed to be a social problem that could be examined on a local, national, and global level. At least I had the choice of what to study, right? I chose urban food deserts and their effect on health and class. This is a major, current, ongoing, worldwide social problem that many sociologists and epidemiologists are trying to address. It’s something of strong interest to me. I don’t want to write a fake proposal to a fake person, but I’m happy to write about this subject at least. It was something. Until the arrogant prick-fessor responded.
He told me that my topic was too broad and too local (wait, what??), and that I would be unable to study it on a national or global level. Dudes. The man – the SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR – doesn’t know what a food desert is. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised because he literally has NO background in the social sciences, so he’s completely unqualified to teach this class. The guy then told me to choose from a specific list of topics, rather than getting to choose my own. (Notably, he did this for a lot of the female students, while letting male students choose topics NOT from the list, like “victim mentality.”)
I. Am. Done.
Two days into school, and I want to quit. I’m raging in every bone, snarling at the inadequacy of this professor and the class, and absolutely NOT going to sit through this guy’s “teaching.” I’m f***ing 41 years old, and if I have to go back to college to prove that I already have that base level of education, I’m going to do it on my own terms. I didn’t even bother to respond to that guy. Instead, I wrote to my advisor to drop the class and go part-time for the term. I also told her that when I take this particular course next term, I want a different prof, and as a precaution, that I would like all female profs unless that’s not available. I know there are great male profs out there – Hi, Adam! – but there are too many that fall into that arrogant, self-important, condescending category that I had the misfortune of getting this term. It’ll be easier to avoid the possibility this way.
So now I’m just in one course, one that I could do in my sleep, sure, but at least I won’t spend the next eight weeks seething as I deal with the man my friend Nat termed a “cheese-d*ck.” I remember being a late teen newly in college, and the way I just bowed to whatever I happened to get, never sticking up for myself, never changing schedules or teachers because I didn’t want to be a bother. I remember that girl going on to have a job under a man who made comments like “no offense, but it gets nasty out there” (about my mostly-female region) and “sorry, Amanda, you were off doing that baby thing” (about why I wasn’t invited to the team outing). I remember a girl that didn’t believe in feminism, didn’t think it was necessary or relevant, didn’t think she’d soaked up any of the cultural limitations shoved down women’s throats since infancy.
So much has changed in the 15 years since I became a stay at home mom, and I won’t go back to that timidity or acquiescence. It’s one thing to be civil and get along with folks who are different from you. It’s another thing entirely to sit quietly and just take it when you have complete control over a situation (like when you take a class, and with what professor). Maybe it’s getting older and having no more f**ks to give. Maybe it’s living in a hostile country for the last 15+ years. Maybe it’s standing up against fat-phobia, anti-LGBTQ+ folks, anti-women, and other backwards-thinking movements. Either way, I’ve learned that I have choices, and acquired the ability to use my voice to make them. If the late-in-life college experience has taught me nothing else, at least I know this about myself, right?
PS – Why god why do I need to use MLA or APA style guidelines on one-page baby english comp papers? If it were a social science research paper? Sure. But mini-essays that want 2-3 sentences per prompt?? When the hell else in my life will I ever be required to use MLA style guides? It’s college for college’s sake. Just another reason I despise academia. Can I just quit and go get a crap-paying job and never bother to finish the degree I don’t want anyway? I can’t be a librarian that way, but every day, I get closer to making this decision…