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Detritus for Elokuu

I had a thought yesterday at work as I was defying my scheduled tasks and having some fun by helping the guy installing the phones crimp some cables. Thought went like this:

The reason there’s a division of labor between people who set up networks and people who code is that routine typing makes your hands too weak to use a cable crimper.

Wrong in any number of ways, but it might be fun to base some futuristic scenario in which there’s two species — hardware people and software people — separated by genetic selection having to do with the strength of their hands. yes, yes. bogus, wrong, and Lamarckian, I know.

* * *

Went out after work with two former wards from YWW. Both of them have recently graduated from high school and are off to college in a matter of days, so they don’t have much to do but pack and think about their lives to date, and the options in front of them… I was tired and frustrated from work, and it was hard to keep up with minds so clear of unfinished adult to-do lists, especially Mack’s. We talked about movies, and music, and of course the workshop… At one point Mack asked Steven Marchette, the other kid (sorry, he has no website), how big his high school was, and Steven said It’s in a military town, so it’s a big school. But there’s no Real People there. Real People, I said; those are the kind from YWW, huh. There was general assent. I thought about how many other Real People they were about to meet. It’s going to blow their fscking minds. I just hope they get some work done, or don’t regret it if they don’t.

(This is why I make such a rotten teacher. Always projecting my life on other people’s.)

I thought a lot about how I don’t get weepy anymore when I don’t know when I’ll see someone next. Leaving the high school gang was a huge trauma, but then, in those days we didn’t understand about email or instant messages. (I sent a huge “I’m leaving! Don’t expect to hear from me until the start/end of the next year!” message to everyone at every ending for the first two years, before I started feeling silly about it.) And then I started feeling anxious and hung out a little overlong when I said goodbye to Mack in the subway. Sympathy pangs, I think. There was something so sweetly retarded about those months between high school and college. Next time I see these kids I’m worried their hyperactivity will have a dulled edge, and there’ll be a certain desperation, something about purpose and meaning, in their eyes.

* * *

I wish Roger had a comments system on his site. Since he doesn’t, I’ll make mine here and hope he stops by. Roger has been reading The Making of a College, the white paper on which Hampshire College (new, improved/Flash-burdened website!) was founded. I read it during my early, impressionable Hampshire years, and found thinking about how it differed from the college in practice so fascinating that I subsequently tried to force it on generation after generation of resolutely un-fascinated first-years, then squandered much of the rest of my time at the school in planning, curriculum, organizing, and petty-politics gambits.

So it was interesting to me to hear Mark Feinstein’s take on the administrative structure of the college, as reported by Roger. Another of the Seven Angry Men, Lester Mazor (I count the others as Mark Feinstein, Lynn Miller, Ray Coppinger, David Kerr, Stan Warner, and Laurie Nisonoff, OG profs still at on the faculty and growing ever more curmudgeonly) once said that Hampshire College as we knew it was the intersection of two vectors: academic reflection on the horrors of World War Two, which called for a more humane system of education (which I had always attributed to the Amherst founders, although I guess that’s maybe a little romantic of me); and the first waves of students (and maybe faculty?), who introduced the 60s critiques of racism, sexism, and war into the mix. I may be oversimplifying what Lester said, but I think that was the gist.

Anyway, because I’ve been thinking along the lines of Lester’s model it surprised me to think that it would be the founders who “had an instinctive dislike of most critical scholarship.” Maybe because of my own Hampshire experience — with my peers insisting to their linguistics professors that birds had language, and claiming expertise on child development based on anecdotes about their own treehouses, and prefacing their cross-cultural analyses of short stories with “This reminds me of the time my Uncle Bob and I went fishin’,” and seceeding from Hampshire to start their own colleges, and learning about film by smelling the camera, and oh good LORD I need to stop this now – I always associate the anti-analytical trend with younger generations, and had thought that trend at Hampshire had come in with the first class of students.

Another idea I want to comment on: in re: “Nobody anymore thinks that the study of mass media, film and television production has much to do with cognitive psychology, linguistics, or perhaps even analytic philosophy” – having looked recently into grad schools in communications, I beg to differ. I think there’s a few schools in Illinois, one at U Penn, and I believe USC, which have communications departments which appear to have rhetoric experts in the same department as linguists, mass media analysts, and psychologists. More than one of them bears the name Annenberg. I haven’t looked into this so closely, but I do think the kind of department you describe exists. Perhaps the reason that kind of department no longer exists at Hampshire is that Hampshire professors aren’t willing to put that kind of knowledge to commercial use, whereas faculty elsewhere are.

(Maybe I should disable comments on this post. This last thread is guaranteed to pull in some more troll action from Evan… :P)

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You know, I get so godd^mn twee and wordy sometimes I think I should take down the Strunk and White claim at the top of this page… old E.B. would not approve.

I should have some pictures up soon. Me, and the cats, and the subway ads. Soon.

4 Comments

  1. Roger wrote:

    Oh, also, Neil Stillings is definitely among the angry men.

    Thursday, August 15, 2002 at 4:40 pm | Permalink
  2. gus wrote:

    Right, Neil Stillings — how could I have forgotten… well, let’s say “seven” in the way Douglas Adams says “trilogy,” then.

    The GI Bill stuff does figure prominently in the literature, and you’re right — it probably had a greater bearing on the early creation of the college than anyone remembers. It’s a funny thing to think about, the impact of that kind of expediency, when idealism is such a part of Hampshire’s marketing package. Then again, how many WWII GI Bill participants (or even those from Vietnam) ever made it to Hampshire? The college wasn’t founded until 1970, after all.

    Friday, August 16, 2002 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
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