I have been thinking about blogging lately; specifically, I have been thinking about being an educator who blogs and the issues about which I and other education bloggers write about. So I started writing about how we always seem to have the same conversations and in all honesty, do we really know what we’re talking about? Then I realized that I’ve already written that piece. So instead of reinventing the wheel, here it is.
The following appeared in The Greyhound, the student newspaper of Loyola College in Maryland on April 27, 1999.
“The Last Run of the Bull”
Being a writer, I tend to read. Most of that reading is books, and I admit that most of them are comic books, but you have to keep your imagination going, especially when you’re me. Anyway, I read through many magazines and newspapers, and even though they’re usually Amanda’s back issues of Cosmopolitan or the latest copy of The Greyhound, there’s always something in there that provides an inkling of inspiration. Most often, it’s something that annoys me.
Lately, the objects of my frustration are essays that take an insanely insignificant detail of college life and explore it for 1,000 words as if it is going to have some meaningful effect on the universe. It’s like some kind of Seinfeld-ian hell: “have you ever noticed this,” “have you ever noticed that?” In my travels, I’ve read articles on how to clean bathrooms, obscure Canadian television shows, school food, and binge drinking.
Those latter columns always get to me the most. Like I said, being a writer, I am fluent in the writer’s behavior and thought patterns. In other words: too many nights behind a computer and not enough time at Craig’s on “Senior Mug Night.” He who talks about how to throw the perfect party and binge drinking describes a lifestyle he has never fully encountered, even though he thinks he has. He puts himself out of the loop to observe and never fully appreciates or embodies the college experience.
But anyway, the last column I read (about job searches or something) prompted me to fabricate a method for deconstructing these sorts of people. As I waited in a doctor’s office for my sister to get a piece of glass extracted from her hand (it’s a long story that I have nothing to do with), I read one person’s account of life with his roommates. Although he never specifically said it, I got the subtle hint that they made his life a living hell. But I couldn’t feel sympathy because all he did was bitch, whine, and complain. People who can’t stand up for themselves annoy me … then again, I don’t know the whole situation, so I really shouldn’t judge.
There seems to be some sort of strange method with which articles “defining” college life are written. Of course, as a disclaimer, I have to tell you that this isn’t true for everything, just for many.
The college essayist tends to generalize; thus, digging himself into a hole rather quickly. Sometimes, he gets specific, trying as much as possible not to stereotype. Other times, he even warns that he’s going to stereotype and suggests that the offended read the movie review on the next page. For instance, one article I read (the one about cleaning a college bathroom) basically described every dorm bathroom everywhere as a toxic waste dump. Granted, my bathroom has been known for its mildew and hair clogs, but I’ve been in other bathrooms that have been decently maintained.
He also discusses other people and their experiences, which definitely proves he has no life of his own, living vicariously through his roommates. My advice is, if you are going to write about binge drinking, get some experience.
He never researches, and is hardly honest, either. The person who writes such articles must pull them from out of nowhere five minutes before deadline; either that or they’re calculated loads of crap that he says he wrote at the last minutes. But, of course, he’s being hypocritical by saying he is an artist at procrastination.
Finally, the college life analyst (I really can’t think of a formal title) always brings up things that are tired, boring, and nobody really wants to hear about anyway. For instance, someone I read talked about bad cafeteria food a few million times. I know cafeteria food sucks, so why can’t we have good food? In the same column, he talked about a friend going back for fourth and fifths at the Caf. What kind of idiot goes back for fourths or fifths of what they themselves call “bad food?” I mean, I don’t care how much fun I have, if it tastes like crap, I’m not gonna eat it.
I also would like to know where the people who write such inane crap acquire such superiority over freshmen. And for that matter, Yankees fans. Okay, well, I can see where one would acquire superiority over Yankees fans-that’s not hard. But freshmen? I know seniors who are as annoying as they make freshmen sound. I know plenty of intelligent freshmen. Some, in fact, write for The Greyhound. Besides, weren’t we all freshmen once in our lives?
What such mindless drivel suggests to me is that the writer believes he is so high up, he knows everything and whatever he says, no matter how stupid, people will like, read, and agree with it. I’m surprised nobody’s tried to shoot down mister high-horse writer; he could sure use it. The Loyola populous is not really as stupid as he thinks we are.
I mean, we have brains, right? We knew enough not to make this a university. We know how to access the college center with a card key after midnight. We know that anything with the word “seafood” in it at Primo’s is a risk. We know where the best bathroom is in the library. We’re insanely smart and not going to tolerate anyone telling us how college life is or is supposed to be. Too much advice is give out by people who either think they know too much or are just bitter over not being able to ever give a valedictory speech.
One of these days, a writer will look at college and think twice before perpetuating the “… it all brought us together” cliché. I know that the relationships you have in college are unique, as are the experiences, and everyone is supposed to live life to the fullest, paranoid that life is going to pass him by. But life, at least from what I’ve learned, is an open-ended question, and everyone gives an answer in a different form. Sometimes it’s in the form of a question; sometimes you buy a vowel.
Okay, that was one last bad attempt at pop culture-oriented wit.
But seriously, you should never think those who are relating their experiences are trying to unleash their non-existent influence. They’re telling you what they see. Fortunately, for some of us, the view is great and the admission cheap.