Category Archives: school

relating to my and others’ respective educations


My little brother has taken to writing more and more often (something that I, as a writer myself, wholeheartedly support), and he’s working on published an article about entitlement and our generation (Millenials, generally speaking). He asked me in a text “Do you think our generation is lazy and entitled?” And I responded, “Entitled, yes. Lazy, no.” I elaborated via text:

I think it depends on two things. Social class (parents being able to afford stuff for their kids), and upbringing. If you’re dirt poor, you can’t be lazy or you’ll die. Literally. We’re not dirt poor, and we got good stuff when we were kids up to now, but our parents raised us to work for things and punished us for being stupid. So we may feel like we deserve some things (being entitled) but we’re not unwilling to work for said things (not being lazy). I think that’s generally true across our social class, at least… I think [entitlement and our generation] is interconnected with a bunch of things and it gets complicated.

I offered to elaborate more via email, but not at that very moment, and he readily accepted. And… then I completely forgot about it and other stuff came up and… well, life happened.

But! Now I’m thinking about it again and I’d like to clarify what I told my brother and go into more depth about how “it’s complicated” and since this is my internet home, I get to do that. Yay. So, onward!

I grew up on the “poor” end of a very rich town in Southern California. My friends and I jokingly called the area “the ghetto” even though it was really anything but. None of us knew what a ghetto really was, and none of us had so much as walked through one at that time. My high school homecoming game included fireworks and a parade, and there were several dances per year besides the homecoming dance and prom. The area was (and is) primarily rich white people who work in upper class jobs: lawyers, doctors, business owners, and the like. I think there may have been one black kid in my entire grade the entire time I was in high school, maybe two or three others in the school at all. We had ceramics and art, science classes with actual working equipment, lavish theatre productions, school-owned instruments for orchestra concerts, and enough college prep to drown the entire town in SATs and advanced placement classes.

My brother (and sister) and I grew up in the same town and attended the same, rich high school. We (all) attended college at private institutions. I went on to get a terminal degree, an MFA, in creative writing—something I was able to do because I was born into a relatively privileged family and was encouraged to pursue my dream instead of “something practical”. I didn’t have to work during high school or parent my younger siblings because our parents were always working (or not there at all). Our home life was relatively stable; my siblings and I share the same parents, who have been married to each other for more than thirty years. As a family, we took road trips to see our extended family in Texas and even traveled throughout the United States by car with our paternal grandparents to see the sights: the Grand Canyon, the Ozarks, and so on.

I can only speak from my own perspective, which is based in a privileged childhood. I have at times, as an adult, lived a paycheck-to-paycheck life wherein I must sometimes decide whether I should feed my cat or myself since I haven’t had enough money for both. Though it could be argued that I led a sheltered life through high school (the theme of one of my high school yearbooks is—no joke—“living in a bubble”), I was not wholly unaware that I was living said sheltered life, and when I grew up, moved out, and moved on, I became acutely aware of what a privileged youth I’d actually had. After all, I became an adult and had to pay for things for myself… and I couldn’t afford them. I lived in New York for a couple of years, where more than half of my monthly pay went to rent for my one-room apartment. I paid my outstanding bills as far as I could every month, and then I worried about food and basic necessities.

This is all to say that Millenials—at least in the upper-middle and upper classes—are entitled. We’ve been told all our lives that we can do anything we want (“follow your dreams”) and that we can have it all, as long as we work for it. Or, we can have it all, if only we pay for it. And because we’ve been raised as though we deserve everything we need and want, we also believe we deserve everything we need and want. That is, in a nutshell, entitlement. I was told that if I attended and graduated from a good college or university, I would be able to get a good job and support myself and my (potential, theoretical) family. I feel entitled to work (in my field of study) that pays enough for me to live on my own and have a similar quality of life that I had while I was growing up. And, I think that some jobs are “beneath” my station and education—though I am, in fact, working in one of those jobs right now. If Millenials are entitled, it is because our parents’ generation made us so. We want more, and we expect more.

My brother and I have privileges we’re not even fully aware of. We are given more than the benefit of the doubt based on our race; our respective biological sexes align with our respective genders. We grew up with books in our home; we are fully literate and speak well. We did not grow up in a “broken home” or split our time between separated parents. We have no visible physical disabilities or deformities; we’re healthy and young. My brother is straight and married to a lovely young woman who shares many of these privileges with us. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Now, all that being said, my generation knows that work means work. It doesn’t necessarily mean digging ditches or hauling lumber (though that’s obviously work, too), but also means putting in more hours at the office than we do at home, forgoing a nice dinner with our friends in order to meet a deadline, and rushing every morning to be on time, eating lunch at our desks, and staying late to “just finish this one report”. Work may mean more money, but it also means more time away from family, if we even have time for a family. My generation (of which I am on the older end and my brother is on the younger end) is a generation of latchkey kids. Our parents gave us everything they never had, but they also showed us what was really important by missing our school plays, skipping teachers’ meetings in favor of meetings with clients or coworkers, and staying late at the office and compelling us—as kids—to eat popcorn and Dr. Pepper for dinner, again.

Don’t get me wrong; my ten-year-old self is totally fine with eating popcorn for dinner every day. But tell me this: is a ten year old who makes herself dinner, albeit a completely unbalanced dinner, a lazy kid? I think not. We are a generation of figuring shit out for ourselves. Don’t know how to work the microwave? Press the buttons until something happens (while simultaneously hoping nothing explodes). Can’t reach the sink to wash your hands after using the toilet? Wash ’em in the bathtub instead. Sister’s hair keeps getting ridiculously tangled? Learn to French braid.

Now, we’re the ones who are teaching our parents how to use new technologies as they become available. If something’s not obvious to my grandma (admittedly part of the generation before my parents), it’s not worth learning about at all. If she can’t learn about something by reading about it (and immediately understanding and comprehending it), she won’t bother. Millenials are masters of of trial and error. “How do you know so much about Microsoft Word?” my mother asks. The answer is: I messed around with the program until I figured out how to do what I wanted to do. Obviously, we can read directions, too, but my generation is hardly put off by complexity or mystery. We are hardly lazy. We know that work has more than one meaning, and we employ it in all its forms.

What many members of older generations assume is laziness is actually scrappy, we’ll-pull-it-together-somehow-ness. We have to think of better, faster ways to do the same things that our parents and grandparents did. It’s impossible to know everything, to do everything. More information passes through our hands in one day than ever did in the entire lifetime of someone who lived 120 years ago. We have to make difficult decisions, and we have to make them with more choices and less time. If anything, our “laziness” is a defense against the figurative floods that threaten to topple us from our precarious positions in the crows nests of our respective ships of life. Every day we step outside our doors, we are categorically not lazy.

Entitled, yes; I admit it. Lazy? No.

Ten Years

I’ve had this journal online, in some form, since 12 December 2001. That makes today my tenth birthday. I’m double digits, guys!

I really wish I’d thought of this ahead of time because I would have commissioned some art or something from one of my artist friends to post here as a birthday present to myself. It’s not every day a website turns ten years old, after all. ^_^

Unfortunately, I didn’t plan anything, so: here, have a clip art birthday (cup)cake instead. (I couldn’t even find one with ten candles haha. One candle, yes, obviously. Five? Yes. Even seven and eight candles, but not ten. Oh well.)

I’m ancient, in internet time.

Here’s to ten more years! I’m sure they’ll be as interesting as the last ten.

September 12

Do you remember what happened on September 12, 2001?

Yeah, I don’t either. It’s been completely wiped from my memory, overwhelmed by everything that was and has become September 11. (I don’t remember what happened on September 10, either, but on that day, the world hadn’t ended yet, so there was no reason to remember it.)

I’d just started my junior year in high school, so I assume I went to school that day, as I did the day before, but we (my sister, brother, and I… and/or the entire school) may well have just stayed home on September 12, too, and I have no recollection of it because everything bled together for a while and I only really remember bits and pieces of that entire semester.

What was I doing that semester? I’d taken English over the summer because it was “an easy” class. I was beginning my third year of German language, my third year of Choir, and my third (and, it turned out, last) year of Colorguard. I was in Psychology, Algebra 2/Trigonometry, and some kind of history class. I can’t remember if it was World History or European History, but it didn’t really matter because I had the same teacher for both and I didn’t really learn anything of importance in either course. I took Chemistry either the summer before or after my junior year, so I think that was the year I didn’t have any science class.

Shit like Britney Spears’ “Overprotected” and Michelle Branch’s “All You Wanted” were still playing on the pop radio stations. Puff Daddy inexplicably changed his stage name to “P. Diddy” (not a step up, if you ask me), and Aaliyah had died in August that year. (The only reason I remember noting her death as important to me was because Queen of the Damned came out in theaters the following February and she’d been the title character, though not the main character.) Speaking of movies, actually, American Pie, which I didn’t see until after college, was not yet a damn franchise; neither epic movie series Harry Potter nor The Lord of the Rings had yet begun. Donnie Darko came out in October, but I didn’t see until the following year with a friend who, shortly after watching it, tried to get me into bed with him. He may have succeeded because I had no sense of personal boundaries in high school and I didn’t know how to say “no”, but when I started crying, he figured out for himself that I wasn’t going to be a willing participant and backed the hell off. Good on him, I guess.

I was dating Angel, at the time, I think, because I remember her coming to the door on December 9, 2001, and my having to tell her that I couldn’t hang out because we’d just been informed that my grandfather had died that morning. The following semester, my grandmother informed us that she had a lump in her breast and my mother (a nurse) flew out to Texas and stayed there for more than a month, leaving the rest of the family to fall apart without her mover-shaker influence. I held it (the family, the routine, and myself) together for a while, but eventually I simply refused to go to school, and when my father made me, I sat in the counselor’s office and told him and the counselor that I was fucking 16 years old—not old enough to be a mother, defacto or otherwise—and that I wanted a damn day off. It was a Friday anyway, I said. What the hell, right?

Yesterday, this September 11, I studiously spent the day avoiding all forms of media. I didn’t want to watch the services in New York. I didn’t want to hear about survivors’ stories on the radio, and I didn’t want to read about it online, in the newspaper, or anywhere else. Instead, I spent the day thinking about today ten years ago, September 12, 2001. What the hell did I do that day? Did I do anything? Did I go to school? Could I have even imagined how the world would change for me, personally, in the next year? In the next ten years? Was I creeped out by the President’s emergency order to ground all the planes everywhere in the United States for more than 24 hours? Was I relieved? Was I even thinking about that?

It hurts. It hurts thinking about it. This day, this day in collective memory which has now been garishly named “Patriot Day”—whatever the hell that means—is branded into my memory like it has been for everyone who had the sense of mind at the time to even realize what was going on. The day the world ended. And now we’re here. Ten years later. It’s not… better, exactly, but at least the wound is older, and we’re more used to it. Instead of healing ourselves, though, we’ve just learned to walk with a limp. It makes me angry. I’m tired of “remembering”; I want to do something to make things better. I want to build the damn memorial or whatever the hell New Yorkers decide they want there and have the museum and then help make the future better doing more good and being kinder. Remembering has its place, but if it doesn’t change our actions in the rest of our lives, what the hell good is it?

I may never forget the Day Before Today, but I don’t need the reminder, either. What do you remember about the day after September 11?

“Amish Values for Your Family”

Amish Values for Your Family coverAmish Values for Your Family:
What We Can Learn from the Simple Life

By Suzanne Woods Fisher
Revell Books
01 August 2011

The closest I’ve ever gotten to the Amish, or to being Amish (hahaha, yeah right), was living in Lancaster County on the campus of a small liberal arts college for four years while I attended school there. In other words, I haven’t gotten very close. Even though I don’t know much about the Amish (though I probably know more than the average joe), I have admired them because they are truly “in the world, but not of it” and they are most definitely not lukewarm.

As I read Amish Values for Your Family I was thinking about how I could apply some of the lessons to my own life, even though I have no family. Well, I have parents and a sister and brother, and I’m part of a family, but I haven’t created a family for myself with a spouse (and that’s not likely to change). I have no children, and—in case this may be news to you—I don’t even like children. I don’t really like teenagers, either. Hell, I didn’t even like them when I was one, so…

So, anyway, Amish Values is just under 185 pages with chapters of 3-5 pages each. It occurred to me that this might be a good book to read aloud to the family one chapter a night, or something, and think about the lesson and suggestions at the end as a group. There was one lesson that stood out to me. I’ve had problems with financial debt since before college, and the chapter called “Too Much Money” made me scoff at first (“Is it really possible to have too much money?” I asked myself), and then it made me think. Each chapter begins with an Amish Proverb, and this chapter begins with:

Unless there is within us that which is above us, we shall soon yield to that which is about us.

Being in debt for a long time sometimes makes me forget that “money is only a tool, not a goal”. I have to constantly remind myself that long-term happiness is more likely if I’m not a slave to my paycheck, and the only way I won’t be a slave to my paycheck is if I pay off the debt I already owe and stop incurring it. It’s not hopeless, but it was nice to have a reminder that my knee-jerk reaction (“Is it really possible to have too much money?”) isn’t necessarily the healthiest one.

I don’t agree that children are the be-all-end-all of an adult’s existence. I don’t even think children are necessary for an adult’s existence to “be complete”. I also think that the Amish, as portrayed in this book, put more emphasis than I’m comfortable with on obedience to authority. Great things have come out of thoughtful disobedience, after all. But Amish Values for Your Family had lessons for someone like me, too—apparent anarchist that I am—as long as I willing to take the kid stuff with a grain of salt (which I was). This book feels like it’s the kind of thing wherein you get out of it at least what you put into it. With some creative thinking, learning from the Amish is beneficial for all people, not just people with families. It will, at least, help clarify what a reader believes for him- or herself.

DISCLAIMER: I received Amish Values for Your Family free from LitFuse Publicity in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Read other reviews and learn more about the book on the blog tour’s main page.

“Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door”

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door coverDon’t Check Your Brains at the Door:
Know What You Believe and Why

By Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
Thomas Nelson Publishers
02 August 2011

According to the book description:

“Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30—both evangelical and mainline—who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, according to the survey by LifeWay Research.” (USA Today)

I am no exception. In fact, I wanted to quit going before I even got to high school, but my parents wouldn’t let me. (It wasn’t as bad as it sounds, though; they said I had to go to some church, and they weren’t picky about which, even if I refused to attend their church.)

Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door was first published in 1992 (with an appropriately ’90s book cover), but I was too young to appreciate it then. Unfortunately, I’m probably too old and possibly too cynical to appreciate the “updated and revised” version now.

I understand this book is for teenagers, but it seems like each short chapter (3-5 pages) almost makes a good point—until I think about it for more than a couple minutes. I mean, for not checking my brains at the door, so to speak, there are a lot of assumptions made and underlying “you’re just a kid, so what do you know?” conjecture tossed out at the reader, whether we like it or not. I’m just not convinced that these four-page chapters are enough Christian apologetics to stand up to someone who really knows what they’re talking about.

The subtitle is Know What You Believe and Why… This book may be an interesting devotional (there are questions for consideration at the end of each chapter, for example), but I don’t think it would help a kid (or anyone) who was on the fence about what he or she believed actually figure out what to believe, or why. It has some funny stories—why God isn’t a killjoy (ch.1), why people who think Jesus was “lily-white” are wrong (ch.8), why the Bible is actually The Inspired Word of God and therefore has absolutely nothing wrong with it in any way whatsoever (ch.10), why being better than someone else still isn’t good enough (ch.19), how argumentum ad populum is a good way to prove that Christians aren’t deluded (ch.25), and on and on—but there’s very little in the way of actual help figuring things out. Plus, there were a few chapters that rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why. (Well, almost all of the chapters disagreed with me, but I knew why for most of them.)

Also, a side note: the entire book is totally down on the devil. Which is a fine thing, I guess, if you’re a Christian. But why doesn’t anyone ever remember that he was/is an angel, too? A fallen angel, yes, but if you follow Christian doctrine, that actually makes us more like him than Jesus. Maybe it’s okay to step outside Christian boundaries once in a while. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay not to know what you believe, or why. Maybe young people quit attending church not because they don’t know what and why but because they do, and things just don’t add up. Just sayin’.

Overall, Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door didn’t change my opinion about attending church, having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, or really anything else about Christianity. It’s a nice idea, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

DISCLAIMER: I received Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door free from LitFuse Publicity in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Read other reviews and learn more about the book on the blog tour’s main page.

“Children’s Lit” class reading

This semester, I took “Children’s Literature” (English 127) at a local community college—I had my final on the sixth of this month—wherein we had a textbook (and a half) and multiple books that were required reading. Here, I’m going to name each book (beginning with the text) and give some brief thoughts, if I have any. I won’t be summarizing any of the books’ plots or we’d be here all day.

The Textbook (and a half)
I say “textbook and a half” because we actually only had one textbook, but the professor made pages and pages of photocopies from another text (probably more than was legally allowed, even considering educational and fair use).

Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood, by Maria Tatar
Of the two, this was the book we read all the way through, and it was clear that the teacher’s preference (and mine) was for this book over the other, of which we only read excerpts.

Children’s Literature: A Developmental Perspective, by Barbara E. Travers and John F. Travers

The Required Reading
The BFG, by Roald Dahl

The Giver, by Lois Lowry

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
Many people apparently like this book, or did in high school when they first read it. But, I didn’t read it in high school (and I don’t think it was required reading at my high school in any class, because I don’t know any high school friend who read it, either), and I didn’t really like reading it for this class. Meh. To each their own.

The Opportunity
In May, we were given the opportunity to meet with one of the producers of the upcoming movie based on Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games on the condition that we read the book so we’d be prepared to actually have a decent conversation with the producer, Allison Thomas. We also read excerpts of The Tale of Despereaux and watched excerpts of the (very different) movie of the same name. (I also watched it in its entirety before the meeting with the producer to get a better feel for the movie as compared to the book excerpts we read.)

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
It was okay. I’ll probably see the movie when it comes out. I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mockingjay, though I bought all three as a box set in anticipation of reading all of them. We’ll see if I get around to reading the other two. (My sister read them all and liked them. She also went with me for the discussion with the producer.)

The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
Let me just say this: the book and the movie are completely different.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

Other Reading
Inevitably, I had to give presentations and write papers in this class. Would it really be a class without such things? Anyway, these are the books I chose to present to the professor in one form or another.

Meet Molly: An American Girl, by Valerie Tripp
I gave a presentation on this and the first thing the teacher told me about the images I had presented to the class was, “It seems… very white”… which is true, but… come on. Sigh. I guess I can be irritated by that because I’m represented in the images I showed (that is: I’m Caucasian), and it would probably be very different if I didn’t have all the privileges my skin color affords me.

Animorphs #6: The Capture, by K.A. Applegate
My favorite of the Animorphs series. I used to own the entire series up through #37 or #40 or something, but I sold a bunch of them on eBay a few years back in an effort to free up some shelf space. I kept #1-6 and a few random ones, like #23.

Beauty & the Beast, a fairytale
Haha, my thoughts on this could get their own post. Maybe someday.