March 5, 2002

stripping the charlatan bare

Cromlech always risks solidifying thoughts that don’t even have me completely convinced. In that regard, I now begin the first entry in a tasty series about college. You may be surprised by where this goes. I may be as well. Nevertheless, it’s time to wrangle up some stray thoughts and send them back to the corral.

I recall wistfully a time when teachers had to shout at the class to get students to calm down. The more dramatic teachers would even flash the lights on and off really fast, which would normally rile the kids up even more and make teaching impossible for fifteen additional minutes. Students would talk, socialize, dare each other to eat boogers and the action would cause such a raucous din. I was always in the thick of it all, standing on my desk, preaching about Sonic the Hedgehog.

Where have those days gone? No one talks in college, and there’s an unnatural, inhuman feeling about it. Somewhere in the transition from junior high to college (and I don’t remember it being this bad in high school, even) a geist came along and squeezed all the zest for life out of these people. They all get to class on time, sit staring straight ahead, and silently await entry of Lord Professor of Learningness. There’s no passionate conversation, no roughhousing.

Now, when I get to class I wanna fight. I can’t learn unless my blood is up. Falling asleep won’t do. Never will do. Short sentences are. Quite annoying to read. Not fun to. Write either.

The problem is almost nonexistent in classes with music majors (who are such a highly sophisticated class of people that they don’t need to maintain auras of quiet disinterest), but is horrible in journalism classes. The professor could ask the class what color the sky is, and no one would answer until ten seconds after the third repetition of the question. Dead serious. The difficulty of the question has no bearing on whether or not it will be answered quickly. Rapidity of answer is determined by how quickly one student can overcome the logy inertia that the entire class maintains. A break in the clouds drifts over one individual, his dry lips crack open, and a weak “blue,” croaks forth. The rest of the class sighs silently in mutual relief along with the professor, who keeps her relief silent, so as not to taint the only collective thought threading among students.

College is about small victories. These kids aren’t going to become bubbling socialites overnight, regardless of their status in high school enclaves or past winnings in booger-eating contests . The past is no longer with us, and that is what is wonderful about college. It gives a student the opportunity to create his ideal self, which can operate in complete independence of whatever path he took to the University. You can be a silent sophisticate, yes, but more importantly you can be a charlatan. No one will question.

If you want to be boring, college is your place. Sacrifice your history, act like you don’t have any interests. Don’t care about your classes? Good. No one else does either. Just shut your mouth and remember that you’re a better person because of your time spent outside of school. You have college friends, college dates, college keggers; but make sure you keep your life from interfering with learning and college itself. In here, all you have to do is dress right, walk right and say the right things. Since talking is optional, all you need is clothes… and by the looks of current girl fashion (I won’t call them women until they dress like it), even clothing can be left at home.

Oh, you are so clever to mask your personality. I am ever so fooled. I walk in the room asking, “What is everyone’s highest score on Space Cadet Pinball?” and all I receive are cold stares. I quickly realize I slipped up. My facade cracked. We were all issued laptops in this class, and we all have since discovered the pre-installed Windows 2000 games in our free time. Many of you play Solitaire as the prof discusses grammar. You all know about Space Cadet Pinball, but I was the only one jovial enough to suggest a common interest among us. The response was drenched in typical disinterest. School isn’t the place for life, you nugget-head!

But they’d never come up with something like nugget-head. And if they can, prove it.

Tomorrow. Silence breeds seriousness, the bane of the right brain.