I thought Dr. Fowler’s metaphor of the jugs filling up the trash can was pretty great. While trying to achieve some higher, common goal, everyone’s ability to do so starts from a different place. My only beef with the metaphor is that maybe the trash pail at the front of the room should be as varied as the containers doing the filling – some of those trash pails would be small, some big, some probably even have holes in them, are different colors, and are probably different distances away from the taps was well. The question to ask, I guess, is this: does the university help people figure out what trash pail looks like and what the best way is to fill it? or does it work they way Dr. Fowler set it up – there’s only one pail to fill and everyone has a different tool belt to make it happen?
I’ll tell ya, I would’ve probably lined my strainer last night with the garbage bag inside the trash pail to get it to hold water and sped off tying to get it filled, quick! without thinking about if that trash pail was thing I wanted to fill. The university setting does this to people. Regardless of their individual track, they have to fit into the holes that are already there to meet per-ordained objectives to be told, ,”OK now you are ready for X.” Where “X” is a specific thing. It’s like that game that moms stress about at what age their kid can put the right shape into the corresponding hole:
It’s weird that it is not more flexible, especially as things exist today. I met a guy last night after class whose job was to tranquilize and transport large animals for zoos — like giraffes (yes, I asked him how they slept). He was telling me that when he was in college, he was a management major who specialized in finance. When he was a kid he worked at a zoo and discovered his special ability to work with the larger animals to do what he needed them to do. When he graduated college, he was hard up for a job he wanted to actually do, so he started offering to move animals for zoo for a fee…and it turned into a successful business that he retired from at age 53. “What was the hardest part about it, looking back?” I asked, expecting some wild story about an escaped lion or rhino. He said it was balancing his budget and getting his finances in order when he first started b/c he had no idea how to manage money. A mgmt finance guy can’t take care of his finances? Something’s wrong here…
The other thing I wanted to bring up is how the university deals with diversity. Take students at Harper High School in Chicago for example. Harper was recently featured on “This American Life” from WBEZ out of Chicago. These kids live in an extremely violent area where EVERYONE is associated with a gang – whether you are “active” or not – based on geographical location. They have to walk everywhere in groups b/c if they walk alone, they’re a target. But if they walk too close to one another, then they draw attention to themselves. There were 28 shootings that occurred last year – and 3 or 4 deaths. Anywhere else in the US and this would have been news…but it’s not here. How does the university help these kids that actually make it to the dorms? In short, I’m not sure it does. They are probably much like our SWVA kids trying to loose their accents once they arrive. (p.s. this is a two part TAL, you can download it for free here)
It’s an interesting juxtaposition to see on one hand, but on the other it’s really discouraging b/c some kids weren’t prepped for US higher ed like I was. Some kids weren’t prepped for anything when they are delivered to the doorsteps of our classes. It is our job to prepare them for their lives, not some idealized life that we seem to direct everyone toward. You have to help them identify what their jug looks like and what they want to do with it…b/c not everyone wants to fill the trash pail at the front of the class!