Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dumb and Dumber

I read the below article in of course all things elite, The Harvard Crimson.  No matter what the color of your skin, arriving through that Yard means you have made it.  And frankly I am not impressed.  I think it demeans many of those who serve on Faculty's and Campuses across this country as something less and neither as challenging nor intellectual as those who are so privileged to serve on the campuses of the Ivy League.  What.the.fuck.ever.

Now clearly admission standards, costs and of course desire are all factors which allow and enable people to attend any College and that is something often out of reach for many despite their innate ability and willingness.   I am sure that one thing is guaranteed that when you leave you could be an utter moron and the prodigy of a family who has been a legacy family, donated money and secured your spot and you will then be placed in a position that will secure your success regardless. See Jared Kushner as example. Or George W. Bush as another.

The "other" Trump Daughter enters law school at Georgetown as does the elder daughter of Obama who has expressed an interest in film as a career but good back up choice to go to Harvard if that doesn't pan out.  Oh who are we kidding regardless she will be hired anywhere she applies with or without a Harvard diploma as anyone would love to be less than one degree from those fabulous parents.  As for Tiffany that law degree will come in handy just the family alone needs in house counsel so she will never be short of work as many newly degreed Lawyers are finding out.

But the argument that the South is dumb has some truths as again the reality is here in the Athens of the South, Nashville, only 33% possess a degree outside of high school.  While our dropout rate has declined and is more in line with the average drop out rate across the country.  This is from the National Center of Education Stats:

The decline in the overall status dropout rate from 10.9 percent in 2000 to 5.9 percent in 2015 coincided with a shift in the distribution of years of school completed by status dropouts, as fewer status dropouts completed less than 9 years of schooling, while more completed 11 or 12 years of schooling. The percentage of status dropouts with less than 9 years of schooling decreased from 21.5 percent in 2000 to 14.5 percent in 2015. Conversely, the percentage of status dropouts who had completed 11 or 12 years of schooling but did not receive a diploma or GED certificate increased from 40.0 percent in 2000 to 50.2 percent in 2015.
Based on data from the ACS (which covers a broader population than the CPS), the overall status dropout rate in 2015 was 6.0 percent. The status dropout rate was lower for individuals living in households and noninstitutionalized group quarters (5.7 percent) than for individuals living in institutionalized group quarters (34.6 percent).
According to data from the ACS, the status dropout rate varied by race/ethnicity in 2015. The status dropout rate was lower for Asian youth (2.4 percent), White youth (4.5 percent), and youth of Two or more races (4.7 percent), than for Black (7.2 percent), Hispanic (9.9 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native youth (13.2 percent). The rate for Pacific Islander youth (5.4 percent) was lower than the rates for Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native youth, but not measurably different from those of other racial groups.
 The reality is that for Minority and Low Income students the door is still firmly closed for them as they are distinctly out of reach with regards to hitting the Commencement stage.   To put it crudely there are shitload of poor brown people here in Tennessee and so that drive to 55 probably means the speed limit versus college degree attention.  

I am amazed here at the lack of desire for knowledge and then I realize that survival trumps all the willingness to engage or converse with anyone different and in turn listen, hear and in turn learn what it means to live in a place where there is hope and prospects for a better life.

I met a young Lyft driver yesterday who came here from Arkansas, she has a Lexus and yet cannot make ends meet, came here for a baby daddy (her words not mine) whom she married and in turn divorced within the two years of living here.  Her son is three and she suspects he is on the Spectrum and would like to go to school to be a Special Ed Teacher but cannot afford the tuition as she claims to have no proof of residency.  I said well you are driving for Lyft and you have to have a Tennessee license and they require it by law to have one within 30 days of arrival so the Department of Homeland Securites would have record (no we don't have a DMV here we have it under the DOT for reasons that again are about the fear factor) of when she exactly surrendered her license.   Then our ride ended and I once again thought this is another story that has many aspects of truth and I am exhausted from trying to decipher let alone care anymore.  But I do just because that is how I am trained and raised, man my Parents really fucked me over. It is auto pilot, like Southern Hospitality, you just do it without thinking and behind the gesture is nothing else.

So when I read this essay in the Crimson I of course went to read the comments and they ran the gamut as they do.  Again this is what the reality of life is trolling all day on the Internet and commenting/harassing/liking/threatening/masturbating to whatever gets you off.

The reality is that the South is not dumber than the North they just embrace it in a way that is part Contrarian, part resignation as that is what your family did and you will be the same and it is all just fine.  I listen to the lectures, the scolding, the reprimanding all the time in the public schools and it is utterly self defeating and demoralizing to me so I can only imagine what it is like to hear it repeatedly on an endless basis from Adults who are there to help you.  I have given up and just on the rare day (yesterday for an example) I teach just to well remind myself I can.  I don't do it for the kids anymore I do it for myself.  How grim.How tragic.How Pathetic.  I feel every passing day here I get dumb and dumber.




The Dumb South
What to make of regional difference
By Madison E. Johnson March 11, 2015


The other day in section, (if I had a nickel in BoardPlus for every boring story I’ve heard with that beginning, I could buy out the Barker Cafe) one of my classmates made a comment about an antiquated law or some other asinine turmoil in some Southern state or the other. My recollection is vague because the statement was vague. But regardless, the room erupted in laughter, not really paying attention to the content of the statement—the past fifteen minutes had been that trademark section midway lull; until this point all eyes had been glazed over. The room responded to the simple “laugh-here” punchline the student provided, that punchline being: “The South.”

The South. Cue laughter. Oh, but he was from the South. Cue laughter. You know, the South. Cue laughter.

By this point I’ve learned that this is not an unusual handling of the topic of the modern American South. Sure, I spent a lot of the first eighteen years of my Georgia upbringing complaining about it. Complaining is what high school is for, I’m pretty sure. But still, something about this bothered me. At first I figured it was something like that odd complex that sitcoms often taught me big brothers have, an innate (and creepy and territorial) possession and protection of their little sisters. I imagine some dude on the TV in a jersey and a backwards baseball cap, holding a football in one of his giant, giant hands, thumbing himself in the chest with the other, “The only one who can pick on the little twerp is me.”

I figured that was how I felt about the entire South. Me, the South’s jersey-clad older brother: “I’m the only one who gets to call you stupid!” I say, giving the South a noogie and a wet willy, running off to the arcade with my older buddies.

The whole section laughed. The section leader laughed. And I look around, smiling this one smile I have that makes me feel and look like I’m suffering some kind of machinery meltdown, or like I’m a Mrs. Potato Head doll and I chose the wrong plastic mouth and then put it in the face-hole a little askew.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be laughing at the joke, whatever the joke was, which I’m pretty sure had nothing to do with feeling like the South’s big brother, an easy but unlikely explanation. More likely, unfortunately, is that when a dozen Harvard students gather around a table and laugh at the South, shrug it off as the unrelated and unfortunate growth attached to their endlessly more scholarly and charming Northeast, there is power and presumption at play that I don’t think I am intended to be a part of, and that I’m not sure I’d like to be. Another club I can’t join.

A lot of racist shit happens down South. It is excellent and warranted and exciting when people thoughtfully consider that, questioning what unique Southern history is at play, considering what role education inequity plays in the situation and how racism plays into that, analyzing how history bleeds into the present.

More often though, the conversation doesn’t quite go like that. The conversation goes, “LOL, the South!” And then the conversation is over. And suddenly it’s not a conversation at all. It is a hilarious device, a dark and farcical tale against which it's authors apotheosize themselves.

Growing up, there were people who talked about the North like it was the Promised Land. Here, I’m beginning to hear people talk about the South like it is actual Hell. By substituting laughter for any possible constructive conversation that could take place about what is actually at play and what is actually at stake when it comes to the American South, there becomes a sense of irresponsibility. Oh no, we would never do anything like that. And if we would, at least we’re not the South.

A lot of racist shit happens in the Northeast. But hey, let’s make it personal. A lot of racist shit happens at Harvard. (Its not just about race, its about ableism and sexism and homophobia and all kinds of prejudice.) It is rare and excellent and warranted when people thoughtfully consider what history is at play here, what education inequity is at play when a Harvard student wearing their new academic privilege like an uncomfortable but expensive sweater vest (or, more likely, like yet another shiny badge on a very old and familiar sweater vest) chuckles and guffaws at all the Southern plebeians.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of slavery money in the Harvard endowment. Cue laughter. That anti-affirmative action Crimson article. Cue laughter. That Harvard building named after that slave owner. Cue laughter. Oh and that one, and that one, and that one. What a riot. Cue laughter.

The South can be hilarious. The South can be terribly, terribly racist. And so can the rest of the country. Harvard gets away with passing as a perfectly progressive institution when it simply is not, laughing at those idiotic and shameful “others” all the while. And sometimes that sneaky prejudice and covert oppression hurts more than its outright counterpart. At least those confederate flags waving proudly on pickup trucks back home are obvious. Let’s talk about systems and ideas that transcend borders before we laugh off half of the country as hilariously “other.” You're no angel either, baby.

The energy put into simplifying the modern American South into an easy punchline could be redirected to instead promote what ought to be an essential human practice: Checketh thyself before you wrecketh thyself.


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