Stanford Poetry Blues and Graduation for One!

So the last online class for the 10 PreModern Women poets happened the other week. It was a free online Stanford class and I signed up hoping to learn something new and I did. What I did not do was any of the assignments (feedback to questions prepared by the instructors). Essays like that were never my strong suit and questions that are supposed to be designed to illicit certain responses usually get the crickets in my head chirping. I’m like “You just said everything in the video, why do I have to repeat it?”  It’s part of the reason I excelled in creative writing instead of essay writing. I have no boundaries and I have no goals. Repeating a few lines from a text that everyone in class will already be repeating is the most fruitless waste of intelligence I came to know while in school. Instead I’d rather quote things deliberately and to make points as I see fit. My grades were only good where professors understood that I was intelligent and could not be motivated against my will.

My sister is graduated high school a few weeks ago! She’s graduated with a much higher GPA than I did and will even be getting a scholarship! I am immensely proud of her, as any brother would be, but I’m even more impressed because I understand part of what she had to overcome. She had to deal with bullying at her high school and decided to take online courses from another high school to earn her diploma. Contrast that with the reality that I couldn’t even get my shit together for a few hours each week to write about Anne Bradstreet and Emily Dickinson (poets I admire) and you’ll understand why I think it’s doubly amazing. And while I can’t begin to fathom the dedication she had toward her own education to actually sit at a computer and not just play endless amounts of video games what I can appreciate is the desire to get away from the people who harass you and make your life a living hell out of boredom. Online school was not really an option when I was in high school and try as I might I could not get anyone to send me to an alternative school (even though I had friends with similar issues attending).

We live in a state where education is under attack by our governor and we live in a society that cannot raise some children to be anything less than sociopaths. For many of these Lord of the Flies types there is little to no repercussions for their harmful words and deeds. And now it seems we are grooming a generation where many of us will have to cope with their thoughtless actions and misanthropic outlook. (but then again maybe that’s our natural state of humanity at all times)  What gives me hope is that there are people like my sister out there that are strong enough to deal with these people but also loving enough to continue to give of themselves. We could talk about how this culture creates the need for online charter schools and how there is a lack of respect for everything and everyone in public schools and that it feeds into the plans to fund private charters but that is another topic about which I don’t care to go into.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was meant to examine what the roles of prisoner and authority figure did to people and how they reacted to a system of oppression.No similar experiment I am aware of truly shows the impact of oppressive learning environments, whether the oppression is coming from the faculty or fellow students.

Line up kids.  Time for class.

Line up kids.
Time for class.

To give you another perspective I attended the same High School my sister initially attended. Despite us being years apart, I was sad to see the culture had not really changed there and if anything had become more negative. The year I graduated was the same year Columbine happened. Our school had already brought in a police liaison (who ended up getting fired for messing around with a 16 y/o girl).  There was a great fear that any school would be next. My group of friends were outcasts and basically looked like and listened to the same music as the kids who shot up their school in CO. In response to the confusion of violence and fear that came from that moment I started to become more vocal in my anti-gun stance (If I die by a bullet I was killed by a coward) and in response to the kids use of Nazi imagry I began wearing my Dead Kennedys shirt that had a big swastika crossed out like the no-smoking sign which read in big capital letters: NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF! and on the back ERASE RACISM.  A few weeks after graduation I wore the shirt to a buddy’s going away party. All night long people avoided me but would randomly shout things like “I hate Jews” and “Goddamn Niggers” to try to provoke me, me who was just another kid who spent his whole life growing up in the same town as them. We were all done with school, there was nobody left to impress, this is just how that place is. I don’t know what my sister had to endure but I am glad she didn’t try to sit around and let it bring her down.
She graduated with HONORS and she even came into town to drive her no-car-having brother out to Madison on the shores of Lake Mendota (or was it Lake Monona? ) on a beautiful June afternoon to see her in cap and gown looking like the beautiful, strong sister I know her to be.

Bru's Sister on Graduation day in Madison!

Graduation day in Madison!

I love this picture. Smile! You deserve happiness.

 

 

(In case you didn’t click the hyperlink)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.