Thursday, November 10, 2011

College Age: Education that is Higher

I go to night school. I go to night school to pursue higher education, which is education that is higher or taller than lower, shorter education. You can tell if education is higher because the people are taller—also sleepier. Presently, I am studying Major English Writings I.  These are major writings like Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales, but they are not in English. Another way to tell if higher education is higher than lower education is that the class titles will be wildly misleading.

In lower, shorter education there are classes called “Reading Time” where you sit in a circle and read stuff. In higher, taller education there are classes where you sit in a circle and you read stuff, but the stuff you are reading will be incomprehensible. The stuff you read in the taller education will make you long for a Star Trek Universal Language Translator or the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, because at least the Swedish Chef makes you laugh.

After you have read the incomprehensible stuff that sounds like the Swedish Chef making meatballs, you will be asked to write stuff about the stuff you have read. There are a few rules:

1)    Incomprehensibility will be punished.
2)    Wild theories, outlandish speculation, and big words are rewarded.
3)    Whatever you write, there can always be more or less of it.
4)    Nothing means what you think—a flea is never a flea.

I was excited to see that we would be reading a poem about a flea in major English writings. I thought, I can always use a few good tips about flea control and outbreak prevention here on the farm. Alas (that’s a word I learned in higher, taller education) alas, I had not embraced rule number four, see above. I was not alone.

At the big circle table where we sit, the student on my right shifted in her seat.

“I’m going to say that the flea is a fetus,” she said.

Another skill I have acquired in higher education is the ability to speak out of the side of my mouth, under my breath, so that my identity is concealed in a group setting.

“I like it. Flea starts with F, fetus starts with F. The teacher will love it.”

My friend was encouraged.

The girl on my left leaned over and in a conspiratorial tone whispered, “I don’t think you can go wrong if you mention the word ‘penis.’ I think the flea is a penis.”

“Nice.” I reassured her.

“How about the flea being the embodiment of the church’s inability to establish a system of semi-institutional ways to castrate the male dominated society’s need to express its infantile sexuality, or the flea is a pregnant alien with a penis.”

I’m not sure I actually heard this or just hallucinated it.

Somebody asked, “Linda, what’cha got?”

“Fleas suck?” No one laughed. “Nothing. I got nothing.”

My problem is that I’m a writer. I write about fleas and peas and creaky knees, and I have a hard time not thinking like a writer or about the writer. My sympathy is with the guy who wrote about the fleas and what he was thinking about when he wrote The Flea and whether or not he’d been having a hard pest control week, or if the flea situation at his house was just totally whacked out . . . and brother, I feel you. I really do.

Here’s to higher education that is taller and smarter and deeper—don’t forget deeper.

Linda (Smarty Pants) Zern

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