Monday, January 11, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 2:05 AM

Originally Published 2005-07-16 06:25:47

Geisel library at UC San Diego is a site to behold. It's an architectural marvel... an inverted pyramid that is largely underground. There are real plants on the edges, with sharp, striking areas of glass jutting out of the ground above to bring them sunlight. There are computers as far as the eye can see and periodicals older than any newsprint has any right living.

I'm in fucking Disneyland. Only this is nicer. People actually live here.

My first taste of a college campus was Laney College in Oakland, CA. To apply to Laney College, you first have to either have been there before or be extremely adaptable and perceptive at reading a map and making wise guesses about where to go. At that point, you should be able to get into school (no classes, yet, mind you, just get into the system so you can pick them) in about 4 hours after asking 4-6 people where the heck to go. When you do finally find the admissions office, there will be a small, 8.5 x 11 piece of paper with 10-12 words on it telling you where to actually go. Then you'll need to talk to another dozen people or so, ask the "right" questions, i.e., don't take "no" for an answer on anything, and you might just be able to use an automated system at that point to actually register for the classes that you may or may not get into.

Today, at UCSD, for the transfer students, the only thing they were missing was the red carpet. I'm pretty good at social engineering these days -- after 13 years of living independently and bribing, flirting, begging, and trading my way to a reasonable way of life. However, today, I didn't need those skills. Here, everything is handed to you. The library building can be seen from a mile away, and the moment you walk in, there's a gal -- Norma, right this minute -- who is paid to sit there and answer your questions. She's not a volunteer, no. She's not on rotation from her real job, no. She works there, on a shift, and calmly told me, "it's your job to make sure I don't get bored." That doesn't exist at the fucking airport, let alone at Disneyland. Or, for that matter, a junior college. OCCASIONALLY, you'll get that at a for-profit institution with a helpful company culture or a customer-oriented focus. Truth be told, however, I can't remember the last time it happened.

The thing is... and I don't begrudge anyone who's experienced this -- by "this" I mean university -- you're an elite. The Carengie foundation classifies UCSD as a "Doctoral/Research Universities—Extensive" and says that this classification accounts for 3.8% of higher education insitutions. This appears to include junior colleges like Laney and glorified vocational technology institutions like DeVry along with the Ivy Leagues.

Just to get a rough estimate, let's say that every college gets an even number of students. With 28% of Americans holding a four year degree, we get 280 million * .28 * .038, or just under 3 million.

Three million. Out of 6+ billion people on the planet. That's .05% or 1/200th of 1%.

You don't realize it, because it's normal. You don't understand how getting things handed to you throughout your life changes you -- your attitudes towards others, towards the poor, towards yourself. You don't realize how lucky you are to be given all the freedom of being a kid in a learning environment with all the freedoms and no responsibilities of an adult.

Some of those transfer students understood, just a little tiny bit, how fortunate they were. But I fear that most of them will forget.

I am so jealous... it makes me very sad on so many levels I'm not sure where to begin describing it.

I have more to say, but that's all for now.

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