Archive for category College

College is a wonderland of openmindedness and the conscientious exchange of knowledge!

Just kidding!

I had the weirdest experience in class today. The lecturer had split us into groups and assigned each group to define a term in preparation for the final. Easy enough. My group’s word was linguistic insecurity. This is an idea put forth by William Labov in the 1960s; basically it means the awareness that the way you speak is not the “right” way. In this country, it would apply to anyone who speaks any dialect other than Standard American English.

Anyway, the girl next to me already had her 25 pages of typed notes in front of her; she flipped to the relevant page and began rattling off definitions of linguistic insecurity and the accompanying concepts of hypercorrection, misrecognition, and Standard Language Ideology (the state-propagated belief that linguistic homogeneity is beneficial to society).

The other two women we were working with nodded dumbly at the stream of jargon we’d just been subjected to. Yeah, that’s the definition all right.

I said, timidly, “You guys don’t want to translate this into layman’s terms? For the benefit of the class?”

“Actually, this definition is exactly what SHE said,” said the 25-pages girl, pointing with an odd mixture of reverence and accusation at the lecturer sitting 5 feet away.

As we moved on to the next part of the question, I saw my chance to inject understandable language into the conversation. Why is linguistic insecurity important? I offered a very straightforward sentence about how the concept perpetuates stratification by subordinating anyone who doesn’t speak Standard American English.

“That’s beautiful,” said the girl. The other two nodded dumbly, again. The first girl took down my humble sentence word-for-word. And added it to her canned definitions, for a result that was about a paragraph long. When she proudly recited said paragraph to the class, the lecturer laughed in nervous, half-hearted approval.

It was so depressing and frustrating to work with this girl who couldn’t seem to function outside the world of buzzwords. College should be about understanding, not regurgitation. But we’re so apathetic that we faithfully take down every word on the PowerPoint without allowing it to reach our brains. In the Information Age, God forbid we should actually process information; just accumulating it is apparently sufficient.

Gotta love that this took place in a linguistic anthropology class, though.


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An anecdote: dating

This post aligns with my original intent for the theme of this blog: complaining!

I went on a first date a few weeks ago. Every aspect of my communication with this guy was ridiculous.

I met him online, which means that the first communication was a message on this site. We proceeded to exchange maybe 8 or 10 innocuous messages. Fine. Let’s move on, shall we? I was the one who suggested in a very straightforward manner that we get coffee. (i.e. “Maybe we should get coffee or something.”) Instead of nailing down a date or time, he asked for my phone number. Hope blossomed within me as I thought that he’d be upgrading from an Internet message to a PHONE CALL to figure things out!

But no. Over the next day and a half I was bombarded with texts.

“Where did u go to school?”

“Oh u play guitar? sweeeet”

“yeah fo sho I dunno what my plans are for this weekend tho”

(I don’t actually have anything against texting language or abbreviations, but coming from someone I didn’t even know in the first place, somehow it was infuriating. We haven’t even met in person, and you’re not providing me with any proof that you know how to use the English language.)

As a good guy friend put it, this guy’s blitzkrieg of brief, meaningless messages betrayed a “fanatical desperation.” I love meeting new people, but I like MEETING them — I can’t find out anything about who you are in 140 silent, typefaced characters!

So I was full of apprehension days before we even went out. But I subdued it with rationalizations concerning the incredible ubiquity of texting in “our generation” or something.

Every aspect of the planning and execution of said date was left entirely in my hands. Our exchange (STILL VIA TEXT MESSAGE) went something like this:

Me: What would you like to do?

Guy: Oh it’s up to you

Me: Okay, how about we do A or B?

Guy: Both sound fine lol

Me: [swallowing aggravation] Okay, we’ll do A. Should we get dinner beforehand?

Guy: Sure if you want

Me: Okay, which restaurant would you like to go to? Pick somewhere. [NOTICE THIS LAST SENTENCE]

Guy: Anywhere is fine with me, you pick

Do guys think it’s nice and considerate to force the woman to decide on every detail of a date? Because sometimes, news flash, we actually mean what we say. When I ask you to pick a restaurant, it means I want you to pick a restaurant.

The actual date was not great but not terrible — probably because it was such a relief to have a civilized conversation in person. He went to the bathroom right before the check came, which was great — I had the waiter split it and both bills were on the table by the time my date returned. (I believe strongly that a girl should pay for herself on the first date. Otherwise, there’s a contract set up between you; you feel indebted to the guy already.)

He said with disappointment, “Oh, I wanted to get that.” If you wanted to pay, maybe you should have arranged to be present when the check came.

He texted me literally 2 minutes after we (finally) said goodbye, about “how great it was to meet u.” I’m terribly old-fashioned, but haven’t you heard of the 48-hour rule? Even 8 hours would do. It was like he had this chronic fear that I’d forget about his existence if he didn’t bombard me with text messages at least once an hour.

The next afternoon when he texted me “how’s ur day going? :)” I decided I’d had enough. I called him and made a lame excuse about how texting was annoying for me because I have an old-school, number phone (which is true, incidentally). I could hear the disappointment and dread as his voice rose half an octave and he laughed nervously, “Oh sure! I totally understand!”

This was a little cruel on my part, perhaps. But when I’ve just met someone, I think I’m entitled to a little time and space apart from them.

I also realized that afternoon that we had switched debit cards.

An awkward on-campus rendezvous ensued.

Guy [with puppy-like anticipation]: So what are your plans for the rest of the night? [this was at 4:30pm]

Me: I’m really tired….

Guy: [dying a little inside]: Oh yeah, sure, sure.

Again, maybe a little cruel of me (although I was actually pretty tired). I couldn’t find it in me to break this puppy’s heart by delivering the brutal truth.

I’m not trying to say that I’m the most desirable, dateable person in the world — in fact, that’s part of why his desperation was so off-putting. I want to date someone whose entire existence doesn’t hang on the prospect of seeing me again as soon as possible. Is that weird?

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Full-time work for no pay? Sign me up!

I’m going into my last year of college, and if you believe the rhetoric my peers and I hear from the career center and from a lot of potential employers, my options look pretty bleak…

1) Grad school (because 16 years of being a student just isn’t enough for me! Please, put me in more debt!)

2) McDonald’s, data entry, etc.

3) An unpaid internship

I first started hearing about unpaid internships at the end of high school, and I never really liked the idea. You say I’ll gain “experience” and “connections” from performing menial labor and/or research for a little-known company, full time, for free? Something doesn’t sound right.

I don’t have to pontificate any more on this, because other bloggers have already done it better. I’m just glad people are beginning to question this suddenly familiar institution in intelligent ways. Tim Barker’s Privilege and Exploitation in the Intern Nation is a great exploration of the circumstances that created the sudden ubiquity of internships. (Thanks to Taylor over at Prospect Blog for this one.) And, if you prefer slightly more blunt language, check out Calling Bullshit on Unpaid Internships by Stu Curry — completely on target about the various reasons internships don’t actually benefit graduates, you know, at all.

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Welcome to the 21st-century classroom

I’ve finally succumbed to the desire to start a blog. This summer class I’m taking is just too incredible not to share with the world. I present to you two highlights from the past two weeks:



Prof: “What about Weber? Can we call Weber a reductionist?”

The classroom is dead silent. The girl next to me has been on her laptop for the entire class, doing everything except taking notes. She Googles, “is weber a reductionist?”



Prof: “So, what was the Civil War about?”

[15 seconds of total silence]

Blonde: “Wasn’t it about the North and South…… slaves…..?”

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