This weekend, Mrs. Realist and I go through a "quaint" parental rite of passage that we've awaited a long time. Our youngest, Sensei, turns twenty. What this means in blunt terms is that we are no longer parents to teenagers. But instead of celebrating this milestone event, we remain mired in parental concerns regarding the future prospects of our four offspring.
It's hard for the smart on the street! (You ain't knowin'!)
We have managed to get two of our spawn through college with degrees, but only my daughter Envirocop is on her own two feet, going through what her mother and I did by raising our first grandchild while putting her husband through veterinary school. The other, my son Bookseller, cannot get an interview despite having both a degree and many years on his current job.
The younger two, Translator and Sensei, are still in college. Sensei is supposed to be on a full scholarship, but the Wall St. banking fiasco damaged the school's portfolio so badly that they have lost the means to live up to that promise. Their abject apologies for making us an offer they had to refuse are almost enough to break your heart.
Add this institutional lapse to Der Governator's cutbacks of California's support of higher educational (while doing little-to-nothing to repair California's Enron-like finances), and the burden of scholastic financing once again falls upon the parents. Just this year alone, we are committed to an additional $12,000 for Sensei's junior year. We cannot, despite my medical travails this year, in good conscience deny her the best possible attempt for her to realize her educational goals. I use the word "attempt" deliberately, for this endgame has already been compromised once due to the college's financial shortfalls having forced a change in major. We would greatly prefer to avoid another such change, and are doing what we can to keep the quill to the parchment. This is yet another "quaint" reason why I will not let the medical industry bankrupt my family over my health care, a sorry saga I related in my last post.
So why not have Sensei work to help herself? She does! As a part of her financing, she works as a part-time teacher's aide in a local school district. But the federal work rules limit how much time she can spend on that job. She is allowed two hours of work a day, and cannot work at all if her classes are not in session. For instance, her spring break did not align with that of the local school, and cost her two weeks of vital income. We paid for her gas those weeks.
Local employment options outside of the purview of the Department of Education are not of much use either. She's put in dozens of applications with the various chain stores and restaurants at the local malls, and has followed up on the few employment ads which show up in the local paper. She only got one interview, and that job went to someone already in the organization. What was that "quaint" belief you recently expressed that the economy was improving, Barry?
Sensei's goal is to teach at the college level, but I have certain doubts that this is a viable option. For example, in Britain and in Northern Ireland, colleges are in danger of closing. Such experienced professors as are displaced will certainly be looking for new positions, and one has to suspect that previously tenured professors with a track record would in most instances prove to be deemed more valuable than those newly-graduated for what unfilled posts remain in any college's budget, even here in the US. The claim of the UK authorities in defense of their plan is that the system is cutting back on operating expenses in order to create new "21st Century" facilities, but a program being run in Ohio demonstrates that a more effective usage of existing resources may prove less costly to all concerned.
The UK is not alone in reducing educational staff. Ohio colleges are clearly looking to reduce staff, as are Dartmouth College, Greensboro College, Columbia College, and Texas A&M, just to cite a few examples. The list of US colleges including staffing cuts in their efforts to cut expenses is long and growing.
Professors all over the nation are losing tenured positions, and are as afflicted by governmental actions as any other group of educational professionals. In Colorado, for instance, a law has been passed that uses "evaluations" to determine whether or not a teacher should lose tenure over an ill-defined "effectiveness" rating. While this bill appears to be aimed at primary and secondary school teachers, I suspect that the bill is in part this is a knee-jerk response to Ward Churchill winning reinstatement at the University of Colorado after his ouster over some admittedly rash comments made regarding some 9/11 victims, and I won't be surprised to see it applied in the future to Colorado's college staff.
All over the nation, as represented by the district of Brockton, MA, heavy cuts in teaching staff are being undertaken to save money. Mrs. R has had to endure such threats to her job for the past two years, and there is no sign of relief. Losing her job will likely happen at some point. In addition to the schools getting cut back, ancillary facilities like libraries are closing, or losing staff, or cutting back on hours due to a loss of funding. The means for one not to be illiterate are diminishing, which only weakens one's employment prospects in the New World Order.
One has to wonder why I had to dig to find these stories. It may be that the United States has abandoned education as another of those "quaint" artifacts of a bygone era, and that no one really cares. A co-worker laughed heartily once when his son proclaimed a deep distaste for reading. This deliberately illiterate attitude may be why the US military is turning to using video games as training tools rather than the infamously thick and quaintly small-printed field manuals. Some of the choices may well be promoting lasting redeeming social values, such as one game which seeks to enhance local cultural awareness in military personnel in the field, but that isn't not what a military tends to want in its recruits. What they want, to paraphrase Gen. Patton, is to enhance the ability of the average soldier to help the other SOB die for his country.
Involved in this effort for battlefield supremacy, UCLA was just granted $5.5 million of YOUR MONEY for new research into micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology, some of which is being used to do real-time brain scans on troops using video games for training. The idea is that such training could "bolster the odds that snap decisions in the real-world will be based on more than just a gut feeling", but do you really want to subject more of your inner self to an entity that already wants to know when you are sick even before you feel the symptoms? You wouldn't have time to develop any physical gut feelings before they knew about them! Duke’s Institute for Genome Science & Policy is getting $19.5 million of YOUR MONEY for that minor intrusion into your personal humanity.
The point to this diversion into militant video gaming is to illuminate my concerns that Sensei's sought-after sojourn into education as a career is based on deliberations for which details are gleaned only from the past. It may well be that education as we understand it is a buggy whip industry, and that she will rack up thousands of dollars of school loans with no realistic hope of ever repaying them through educational employment. As I am already subsidizing the existence of her brother Bookseller, I am not looking forward to adding indefinitely-extended life support for another child to offset my dwindling prospects for retirement. I will not, however, throw them out on the street as long as they are making honest efforts to improve their economic condition. It's another of those "quaint" parental attributes that I tend to adhere to.
I've not gone into the prospects for my son Translator for a reason. He may well be the only one of my children to have a real opportunity of doing better in life than I did. This quaint -if time-honored- desire of American parents is becoming more difficult to realize. Yet due to Translator's interest in video game programming, he may well be the one in demand by future employers. All he will have to do is turn his interests to the service of the dark side and create games to enhance the abilities of his peers to kill and destroy. It slays me to admit this, but it's a growth industry sans pareil – the only game left in town!
I'll be standing on this side, cheering for the end of it. I already know that in the end, nobody really wins.