Friday, October 09, 2009

step 1 step 2 step 3...

I’ve turned in all my paperwork to the Art Institute and now have a few weeks of waiting to see if all works out. Between them settling on my acceptance and getting the GI Bill stuff in order, it’ll take a bit of time; updates when available.

I remember way back in the early summer with the President said he was putting $12 billion toward community colleges. The Eleven looked at each other and did a little high-fiving since we both have CC experience and loved it; as did everyone we know that attended a CC. For some reason community colleges became the weaker option in the drive for secondary education back in the 70s or 80s. All the rankings of top colleges and universities, the money expended by families, and the growing financial input toward public and private universities seemed to confer a death knell on community colleges. From what I’ve seen, loads of community colleges seemed to recover and thrive at some point in the mid-90s. I’m guessing the resurgence was a counter-balance to all the factors above: state universities began to actively tie curricula to the regional CCs, the cost of spending two years at a CC and then transferring to a four-year program made much more sense, and the cache of major universities (especially when you consider the cost) probably waned a bit after the go-go 80s. Not only that, a four-year degree isn’t actually a requirement for what many people would like to do in life, at least not at first. Sarah sorted that out at ASU two years ago and moved back to CC to complete a vet tech degree, go to work, and then move to a four-year program if she chooses. Unfortunately, not a lot of kids (myself included) sort things out that quickly and it turns into wasteful spending, lost years, and some mediocre careers. Paul Krugman has an op-ed in the Times today that presents a lot of hard questions about our education system, its financial situation, and its future. I don’t want to sound too much like an old, cranky man but what the public schools are teaching, even in a well-regarded system like we live in here in Virginia, isn’t very impressive. They send homework out with the kids, stuff that is grades behind where the kids are academically, that gives the appearance of learning but it’s really just box checking for the school. In fact, I think what we are seeing at schools, at least here, is an academic year of holding serve followed by three weeks of drilling the kids for the standardized tests at the end of the year. I’ve ranted enough about education in other entries; I’ll just let it all hang for now.

Between my application process for the Art Institute, and reading Krugman’s piece, I’m again bewildered (surprised? finally remembered?) by just how much of your life you’ll always have to answered for. My life, for all its ups-and-downs, has been charmed; the complaints I may have all fall from the parts of my life over which I had total control but chose to half-step or ignore. The Art Institute, as with all secondary schools, wants your academic transcripts, and since they do quite a bit of trade and community college training they also want your high school transcript. I don’t even remember high school but my grades were good and aside from it being printed on parchment, I have no concerns. My college transcript is another story. Rolling that piece of junk into the light of day is embarrassing. When I was 18, 19, and 20 years old it just didn’t seem too important; I wasn’t interested in the pitched battle to make millions on Wall St. (it was 1983, after all and I was just about to vote for Reagen) so I justified not doing well by thinking that, in the end, I’d somehow sort things out. Hey, I had a girlfriend and someone else was paying for school…no worries. Well, thing did get sorted and turned out well but it was twenty years in the military that steadied things, not me. It was almost a lark that I joined in the first place but I ended up with a career, lots of benefits, and a good life. Now, yesterday, the fact that I’m telling the story of my 2 ½ years of poor college performance, which could easily have been stellar if I had made even an inch of effort, over a quarter-century later is a tough lesson in taking care of your business at every point in your life. Nothing disappears – you DO have permanent record – and you better know that you’ll never walk away and truly start over. While I was driving home from the admissions office and thinking about all of this it wasn’t so much under the guise of being a straight-A student, saving the world, being a saint, or anything along those lines. What it was, and what really grated on me, was that you can’t finish your life as you may choose when you’re 14 or 15 years old, but you can make that future significantly more difficult. If you take on any sense of responsibility and move through your youth as a B student then you’ll be fine; you won’t be explaining away how a B+/A- student in high school ended up with a 1.98 GPA after two years of college. It all seems so obvious, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure that, as a community, we miss those chances to pass along this symmetry; we figure it will sort itself out in the end. Well, it may, as in my case; or it may not.

I think I need to give Laurel a call.

That was rambling. I’ve got nothing else….

Oh wait, I do. Here’s something brilliant to start your weekend.


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