Is Education a Scam? Or, I’m Not Waiting for Superman!

So many people are making a fortune, either politically or monetarily, or both by attacking education, and especially higher education. Yes, education is an easy target, and sometimes education, especially the education I love, liberal arts sets itself up for being picked on.

Recently I read an article at insidehighered.com about a smart young man, Billy Wilson who is dropping out f Kansas State even though he has a 4.0 GPA because he has decided college is a scam…..

My initial response is to him:

I did about the same 40 years ago. One of the two greatest mistakes of my life. I hope you wake up, or better yet, apply to transfer to Penn where you will meet people who will make you care about learning!

I was smart. School was boring. My professors were stupid. I could make more money driving a truck than I could with a four-year degree. The doors I closed for myself, the years of missed opportunities. Good luck with your business, but if you were at the right school in the right department, you would find a passion that would make you so enriched, even if you eventually started your own business.

Yes, higher education is expensive, but there are dozens of ways to get an education and not be buried when you get out. It is not a rip off. It is the greatest investment you can make in your life. Maybe Kansas State isn’t right for you, but somewhere is. FIND IT! Oh Billy!

I really appreciate the way Al Filreis, and ModPo at U Penn, and places like Coursera and the better institutions of higher learning in general, work to break down the walls of the ivory towers and get not just poetry, but complex thoughts about poetry, as well as other thoughts about thinking, out onto the streets and onto every molehill in Mississippi (speaking of a poet!)

To say education’s productivity is going down is way off base. Education produces thoughts, wild thoughts, disciplined thoughts, new thoughts, old thoughts re-examined. To the extent that too many people feel like my poor father did, “you go to college to make more money,” we are losing our “thought productivity”. This is the productivity that counts.

As long as there is Filreis and 100s, maybe even 1000s, or 10s of 1000s of teachers from grade school to college out there pushing thoughts and creativity, and not just how many more dollars you will make with an MBA compared to a high school diploma vs a high school dropout, we are on an ever-increasing path of productivity. The funny thing is, history has shown us we get not only better philosophers and poets, but better doctors and lawyers and engineers if we create a strong appreciation for thinking, and that is best done in a good liberal arts program.

If we continue this path of undergrad specialization, we create excellent robotic engineers and research scientists, but if we turn back towards making sure every engineer every accountant can paint a picture, can understand a painting, can write a poem, and can take a poem apart in a close read and then can understand how a painting might speak to a poem, then we have a true scientist or lawyer who has opened his/her mind “to the possibilities who dwells true in their groove until an amazing splinter shows them a new course,” a course the robot would have missed! This is the most productive form of education. This is the education we have to fight for every day in the face of “three ‘r’s” mentality! This is real educational productivity. This is how we beat cancer, fly to mars, save the earth, and of course how we write a poem for our mom’s on Mother’s Day. How bad is that?

Trump, a Man, a Plan

I have friends who fear Trump, because he is evil. I have friends who think he will start death camps. While I cannot reassure them he will not do the most evil things they can imagine, I am reasonably sure he is not interested in deporting 12 million undocumented Americans, he is not interested in banning abortions, in requiring guns in schools, nor do I think he cares about bathroom bills and “kill the Gays” legislation. I do not think he wants to “drill, baby, drill, or start a war with China, or give Russia half of Europe.

From what I can gather, Trump is a common criminal, a completely amoral person. It seems to me he has one goal. He wants to run the world’s largest, most profitable criminal enterprise. I expect to see a level of corruption, outright theft and questionable contracts to cronies in the 100s of billions of dollars. I don’t know if he can break the bank, but I am confident he will try.

As much as I hate for him to steal money, first from the taxpayers, and secondly from those least able to pay it, those on support from government programs, for I am sure he will make sure contracts are awarded to crooks who will steal food from babies and medicines from grandma, not to mention supplying substandard materials to our military, our infrastructure and so on, that is not my main concern, though it is a huge issue. The biggest problem I foresee is the bargain.

He will make a bargain with Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz and all the other evil bastards who really WANT to harm women, children, the elderly, the poor, working or otherwise, Muslims, Blacks, Mexicans, LGBTQs, liberals, atheists and others I am not remembering at the moment. They really do want to destroy science and the environment, they want to destroy the federal govt. so here is the bargain. Trump will not bring back jobs. He will not balance the budget, at least not in a rational manner.

He will let bigots carry out violent attacks and even murder without fear of prosecution, on blacks, gays, Muslims, and Hispanics, and people who look like any of the above. He will not stand against extreme pro-gun, pro-death penalty, anti science, anti freedom laws, he will sign whatever the tea party sends him, there will be no brakes applied. In return, he will be able to rob the treasury without fear of as much as a peep out of congress. He will not stop voter suppression, no matter how egregious. He will appoint the most rightwing judges with one condition, they agree to never come looking for him. They will be the lowest of the low, the judges who are not bribed later, but who are bought before they take the oath.

He could be done in 4 years, god knows he will not only have enough money, but will have long term ongoing contracts that will continue to pay him billions beyond his natural life. But the thing about people like Trump, maybe about like most of us, if we are ever given the chance, he doesn’t want enough, he wants all he can get. Maybe he stays for 8 years. Maybe he steals a trillion dollars.

We can eventually recover the treasure, not from him, but through the hard work from the taxpayers. What of the ash heap of a country his corrupt partners have created? Undocumented means underground, gay means in the closet, black means terrorized at will. Immigration will fall and there will be a drop in population. We will become a corrupt backwater country like Russia. How long does it take, 10 years a generation, a lifetime, never? And what of the environment? Will it be forever destroyed?

That is the Trump I fear. The Trump who doesn’t care what the bad people in the GOP do, as long as he can steal with impuity.

The Perfect Form Poem

 

Long before I ever read the book hitchhikers guide to the universe or any other of Douglas Addams books, I thought the secret perfect number was 42, in fact, I always used it as the exact number when I meant a rather large but uncertain number. After reading hitchhiker, I felt validated, and as it seems every poet of significance, and who doesn’t want to be one of those? Has his/her own “thing” I have decided my thing is the perfect form poem. As I have just discovered this form, it is not a finished concept. I will be experimenting with variations on the form. As you might have guessed from my lead in, the number 42 is key to the perfectness.

At its core the “Perfect Form Poem” is a poem made of a total of 42 syllables, though 42 words, or even 42 letters would work. It is certainly in need of shortness, so it will never be 42 lines, which for me always seems a bit of a run-on poem, even when it is mine. Brevity may be the soul of wit, or is it the sole of wit?, but brevity is certainly helpful when selling a new idea.

6 lines of 7 syllables, 7 lines of 6 syllables, a haiku +25, or what we might simply call a “Haiku25”

7 lines of 6 syllables, or even 7 lines of 5 and 7 staggering, almost a SUV of haiku, or maybe more quaintly, as I am both archaic and quaint, “Haiku Station Wagon”. An automobile implies a few things:

Transportation, motion, a station wagon adds a sense of family, and even though most of the time a station wagon went to the grocery store or the school yard, it is closely associated with vacations. A fact largely due, no doubt to the car industry trying to as a bit of sparkle to the precursor of the minivan.

Any form of mine should be long on lower case and short and random on punctuation. I also have a fondness for misspelled words. In this piece, already I have written: ot, randon, spaekle and even misplled, and surely more that spellcheck grabbed and corrected while my eyes were watching my fingers and not the screen. A stranded punctuated or two would also be fitting, as in .r and ,b, these could count towards the 42 or be considered superfluous. I haven’t quite decided, and of course, as I am of the school that a poet is only half the team of writing a poem, I certain don’t mind if you jump in and try your hand at this Prefect Poetry. You might even “perfect” it. Humor, irony, and on occasion, outright silliness, are somewhere between acceptable and required. New wording is also very much a part of this form. As a nod to my heroes, I am tempted to call it P+E+R+F+E+C+T+P+O+E+T+R+Y. But as I do not mean to trivialize either the LANGUAGE poets nor my own, I will refrain.

Now to write one of the damn things……

 

A soonet of blue

Scrolling past so many lines

Given over on

The account of death unborn

Makes the rot of verse

Stronger than any rhyming.

 

If by cotton

You mean the thorny tearing

Cousin of okra

And not the liking of

Or desire for

I have no need

Except for a soft sun faded

Wrinkled shirt

 

“Rs”

Sotrm cloud gather

Across the old battle worn sky

Of alabama.r

Where I have watched the weather

Since a child tapping dads brass barometer

And will until I die

 

I fear I am too much of a freeverser to be tied down, but I will keep on, it is possible Gertrude took a week or more to get so confusing and WCW must have spent a summer learning to do what he did.