Why am I still up?
I went to bed about three hours ago, but woke up worrying about the current shitstorm involving SGA and ILSOC. I got up to get a glass of water and hammer out a short list of talking points I'd like to address when I meet with the SGA Academic Affairs Committee's chair tomorrow afternoon. I want the points on this list said, not mis-said. I want to be clear and forthright, I want to be honest. I want no more bullshit. I want continued and ongoing discussion between our respective groups. That's all I want. I don't think it's too much to ask for.
I realized earlier this evening that I've gotten older and wiser, and concomitantly more pragmatic and less idealistic, than I once was: fifteen years ago when I was these students' age, I was just as impetuous and hot-headed, just as incapable of seeing things in anything other than black and white. I was just as committed to lofty, unrealistic and unattainable ideals. I was much more excited by storming the castle walls than I was by sitting in the boring committee meetings taking place in the castle's keep.
Case in point: it was much more exciting to deliver my valedictory address in high school than it was to serve as a student representative on the committee to hire a new principal for my high school (a position that was no doubt granted me on account of said valedictory address).
More context? My valedictory address wasn't the standard saccharine "here we all are now and now we're off to somewhere else to bigger and better things, but wasn't it fun, y'all?" It was essentially a scathing report on what I felt were shortcomings in the public educational system I had gone through. (It's worth noting that, knowing much more about the state of K-12 education in this country now than I did then, I feel even more strongly about some of those shortcomings now.)
After delivering this opus magnum to the assembled crowd of a thousand or so students, friends, and family, I was given the chance to serve on the committee I mentioned above. Not having been overly involved in many student organizations in high school (I am what I am, and I have no regrets, but I wish I'd been more involved back then), I was unaccustomed to committee work, and I found my day-or-two-long involvement with this hiring committee to be dull, dry, and uneventful.
However, as I realize now, it was a far more effective means of enacting change than delivering a rousing and rafter-raising speech to a bunch of pimply-faced teens and their parents. As a member of that committee, I was getting involved meaningfully in the institutional process; I had a role, and I had a voice.
There was an interesting parallel that took place yesterday: on my way from a conversation with a colleague who's visiting my department to study our program's successes, I walked past a walk-out sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society (yes, they still exist). The walk-out's organizers stood on a stage at the foot of the library steps, shouting slogans with which I agree ("education is a right, and not a privilege!") and calling for laudable goals ("Affordable educations! Reasonable demands on faculty!").
I couldn't stay and listen, though I would have liked to: I was on my way to the first of three discussion sessions whose purpose is to decide on our school's QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan...Number 7 in this sampler; you'll be seeing me write much more about it in the coming months). The QEP session was not fantastically well-attended. There were perhaps twenty people present for most of the session, and most of these (12 to 15) were students involved with SGA. I was happy to see them there, but I was chagrined that there weren't more faculty present.
About ten minutes into the session, we heard shouting outside in the halls: SDS had moved their protest to the student union.
Here's where the parallel begins: the folks who had assembled in order to help identify and reify what meaningful institutional change looks like, with the ultimate goal of enacting that change (and we will, because we must!) were getting drowned out by people shouting about their desire for change. I respect the point of view the SDS students were expressing, and for the most part I agree with it. I feel, however, that they could have accomplished more by joining us in our relatively stodgy and conventional discussion than by shouting in the halls.
Maybe I'm just getting old.
Meh. I'm going to have another crack at sleep. I'll see you on the sunny side.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Why am I still up?