Back To (No) School

Oh, friends.  I know it’s been awhile since I posted.  As always, life happens and I find myself procrastinating on posting for days upon days until suddenly weeks past and I just pretend that no time has passed at all when actually it’s been three months.  Thanks to everyone who was still reading, commenting, and emailing me (postcollegiateblog at gmail, if you’re interested) and I hope to be more committed to this blog as the summer melts into fall.

When you’re growing up, late August/early September is always the back of school time of year.  Being the kind of kid who hating playing outdoors and loved the feeling of freshly sharpened pencils in her hand, I loved the back to school rush.  Picking out new supplies, seeing old friends, and the feeling of temperatures dropping below 90 degrees was always a welcomed feeling for me.

After college, the back to school feeling became something different – it became the “going back to school” feeling.  Every fall since I graduated in 2007, friends have announced their intentions to attend medical school or law school or graduate school or air conditioning repair school.  Going back to school has become everyone’s fall back plan and as you probably know, earlier this year, it became mine.  This past spring, I applied to Expensive DC University’s Business School.  I submitted my application just days after being laid off, wished on a bottle of beer, and hoped for the best.

And I got in!  With a scholarship!  And there was much rejoicing.  Until I realized how much this little excursion back to school was going to cost me.  Even with the scholarship (and extra money cajoled out of the department, because I am supremely gifted at manipulating funds), I’d be looking at taking on a loan debt that just felt outrageous.  It would triple my current debt, limit my ability to make money with my new career (more to come on that!), and would drain my savings.  After a few days of reveling in my acceptance and cursing my ancestors for never leaving me a hefty inheritance to cover my educational needs, I had to say no.

That was six weeks ago.  It hadn’t really started to bug me until now.  Scrolling through Facebook, I see the announcements of various acquaintances getting excited about going back to school and their various graduate school acceptances, and I feel a sickening sense of envy.  I could be stocking up on school supplies, scoping out hot professors online and preparing “I’m so tired of studying” tweets but instead, I’m staring down a fall surprising similar to every other fall I’ve faced for the last five years.  I think the thing that’s really getting under my skin is that if this business school acceptance had come to me when I was 22 or 23, I would have said yes in a heartbeat – financial responsibility and loan burden be damned.

I’m proud that I’m being more financially responsible but it worries me that I’m losing that aspect of my personality where I was willing to take big risks.  I’m not as naive as I used to be and I worry that perhaps with the little wisdom I’ve attained in my post-college years, I’ve lost my sense of risk and adventure.  Maybe I should have jumped into this opportunity and worried about the money later.  Or maybe I made the right choice in keeping my nose to the grindstone to work as much as possible and pay down my current school debt.

Or maybe I’m just obsessing because I feel rudderless during a time of year when someone else used to hand me a schedule for the next eight months and tell me exactly what to expect.

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Friday Frivolity: Nerd Nostalgia, Schoolhouse Rock Edition

Alternately titled:  How I Spent Thursday Night Drunk With My Schoolteacher-To-Be Best Friend Watching Schoolhouse Rock YouTube Videos

I’m a simple creature.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy.  A roof over my head, clean clothes on my back, and warm food on my table.  Throw in a case of Miller High Life and wireless Internet access and I will become downright gleeful.  Last night started innocently enough – a few girls gathered together for dinner, catching up, and gossip.  But then…everything changed.

Remember D.A.R.E.?  Of course you do!  D.A.R.E. is famous for keeping almost no middle class suburban white kids off of drugs but giving us all really cool retro shirts to wear ironically when we were smoking up behind the tennis courts during our off period (Mom, I swear, it was only the other kids, I was there to study!)   Apparently, D.A.R.E. is still alive and kicking (because in all seriousness, they do good work, especially the drug dogs they bring to school when you graduate), so my STBBF was kind enough to share this jaunty tune that her students are currently learning to perform for their D.A.R.E. graduation.  Warning:  Listening will cause major earworm.  NOT A JOKE.

Once we listened to this song like five times – and warned each other to “check our attitudes at the door” – it was a YouTube nostalgia fest.  After brief detours with Rappin’ Rabbit and The Hippo Song (one of us grew up with a weirdly musical religious aunt), it was time to bring out the big guns – SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!  My passion for Schoolhouse Rock cannot be overstated.  We own the VHS set at home and I still love to pull them out and watch them en masse when I’m visiting the PCParentals.  I have very fond memories of catching the clips during Saturday morning cartoons, implementing them into my stash of babysitting tricks, and playing tracks off the dope cover album when I was a college DJ.

The genius of Schoolhouse Rock is that it exists perfectly at the intersection of sincerity and camp.  The content is legitimately educational, unlike so many contemporary offerings, and there’s an earnest enthusiasm that never quite feels hokey, because each song’s story is sublimely silly in its own right.  While I always had a personal preference for the grammar and history series, even the math and science songs had a way of making me want to laugh at it and with it, all at the same time.

So, in honor of this most frivolous Friday, please enjoy my top ten favorite Schoolhouse Rock videos (in no particular order).

Sufferin’ ’til Suffrage

I like to think that my feminism really grew out of watching this over and over again.  Also, how fantastic is that girl’s ponytail?  SUPER FANTASTIC.

Three Is A Magic Number

I am not ashamed to admit that I still use this to do multiplication in my head!

The Tale of Mr. Morton

Not only is this story incredibly sweet (Mr. Morton was lonely…Mr. Morton was), but another great feminist-inspiring song – spoiler alert, the woman proposes!

Interplanet Janet

“A solar system Ms. from a future world” is just the catchiest damned lyric.  This has a 89% chance of being my Halloween costume this year.

Elbow Room

It was a toss-up between this and The Shot Heard Round the World, but is there a better song that illustrates Manifest Destiny?  It’s also a PostCollegiate Family Favorite – we often sing it when we’re cramped in small spaces together.

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)

Everyone is always raving about Conjunction Junction but honestly, this is the Grammar Song that just gets stuck in my head whenever I think about adverbs – which is probably more than any reasonable person should.

Electricity, Electricity!

A little dare – go switch your lights off and then on again.  Did you just sing the chorus to yourself?  Of course you did.  Don’t be ashamed.

Dollars and Sense

Okay, so I clearly did not learn Becky Sue’s money lessons very well (as evidenced by my inability to stick to a budget) but this is like the most charming song about currency that has ever existed.

Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla

Thanks to STBBF for reminding me how awesome this song is – saying all those nouns over and over CAN wear you down!

Mother Necessity

This song comes in hand whenever I’m watching Jeopardy and there’s a category on inventors. 

Okay and one more bonus video, because, come on, it’s the golden standard of Schoolhouse Rock videos:

I’m Just A Bill

It’s a classic for a reason, folks.  And it’s adorably old-fashioned as it features a Congress that used to actually DO things like enact laws!

In Today’s Obvious and Soul-Crushing News

Anyone who has graduated from college in the last five years will be not-shocked-at-all to learn that the bachelor’s degree that you worked so hard for (assuming you define work by drinking a lot and studying a little) and racked up thousands of dollars in debt for is not special at all.  That’s right – you are just one of millions upon millions of young 20-somethings with a bachelor’s degree and it will do next to nothing in helping you find a job.

“But wait!” – you cry – “I made a smart decision after finishing my bachelor’s in Televisionary Studies at Elite Liberal Arts College and obtained a Masters in Sitcomery/Tumblr Marketing.”  Oh, poor little graduate school-attending fool – that degree is also worthless as well.  According to the New York Times (harbinger of bad news for postcollegiates), the job market is now flooded with young people desperately grasping master’s in their hands.  To put it into numbers, 2 in every 25 people over the age of 25 have a master’s – the same proportion of people who had bachelor’s degrees in the 1960s.  Again, not surprising if you’ve been to a happy hour any time in the last five or six years but depressing numbers all the same.

So, to recap the things you already knew:

1.   A bachelor’s degree is meaningless but you still need to drop some serious dough to get one.
2.  You probably won’t get a job with that bachelor’s, so you need to either marry rich (fingers crossed!), live at home forever, or get a master’s degree.
3.  Even your master’s degree is pretty meaningless but you still need to drop some serious dough to get one.
4.  We all sit and weep awhile.
The full article is worth a full read, especially if you want little nuggets like the fact that even MBAs are too broad to help you land a job now or the prediction that in 20 years, janitors will need PhDs.  Or, you know, you can just go cry in a corner for a bit.

Anti-Schooling Valedictorian Speech

I did not want to attend my own high school graduation.  By the time graduation rolled around, I had my eye on summer vacations and heading 1,500 miles away to college and didn’t really buy into the pomp and circumstance of a 3-hour long spectacle.  Naturally, my parents made my graduation party contingent on walking at graduation.  Very clever, parental units, well-played.

Of course, I’m not the only graduate to be a little cynical about the exercise.  One valedictorian, however, took it to the next level at her 2010 graduation ceremony by using her speech as a platform for criticizing the American public school system and education in our country as a whole.  [To read the address in its entirety, click here.]

Erica Goldson, valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School in New York, talks about her disillusionment with our focus on accomplishing goals as opposed to learning.  She astutely points out that, for many teenagers, the only reason to work at school at all is to do enough to get out.  However, this is not a speech about slackers or underachievers – she struck at the very heart of the kind of student I was in high school:

I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning.

I think so many of us, raised in “gifted” programs and taking advantage of magnet & charter school programs, feel this way.  The goal is getting good grades, doing well academically, gaining admission to a good college – but then what?  Even throughout college, the focus on having a stellar GPA and solid package [to gain admission to graduate school?  find that perfect job?] takes precedence over learning for discovery’s sake.

I love how she has the nerve to call out the system and remind her friends, parents, and teachers that there should be more to life than earning degrees, getting jobs, making money, and being consumers.  She calls for passion – oh that word – over meaningless achievement, which how I sometimes view my own accomplishments (high school degree, college degree, resume lines, etc.)

What I respect about Erica’s speech is that she issues a challenge that is unusual for a commencement speech – instead of the insipid advice usually given, she challenges her classmates to challenge the system.  In a direct opposition of the “generation me” stereotype, she reminds her peers that there are more to come through the system after them and they have a responsibility to make it better for the future.

I say kudos to you, Erica, for a wonderful graduation speech – a challenge to the system, an expression of real fear and doubt which is remarkable for a young person, and a call to arms to make change.