Why School Bugs Me, Another Reason

The Assignment: An essay, one thousand words long.
Comment Written on Paper by Marker: “Both your paper and your conclusion are too short (1000 word).”
Wordcount According to my Word Processing Software: 1143 (not counting title and “works cited” page)
My Reaction: “Well, at least my concerns about going over the limit were unfounded.”

Seriously, it’s nice to know that all the work I put in to trim my paper down so that it was only 143 words over the limit actively worked against my mark. I just wish I’d had that “track changes” thing active so I could check and see how much I trimmed specifically from the conclusion.

Some Updating…

Okay, so today’s SecGov page wraps up the most recent story. During the course of that story I lost my script and just winged it for the rest of the scheduled 22 pages, so the pacing suffered, but whatever, it is done. With that story done, though, a lot of the little plot threads I had tried to build are now at the surface. I’m going to now probably focus on single pages for a while, because they’re a lot easier. Hopefully I’ll be able to delve into something more substantial soon.

In other news I had a dream the other night in which I was the new Prime Minister of Russia and I began my career by going house to house to ask what people thought their three least favorite things about the country was. I got to about five houses before waking up. Being Prime Minister of Russia seems hard.

The Story of my Two New Classes

I’m over halfway though my second semester of school and it occurs to me that I haven’t posted anything about my new classes. Time to remedy that, I guess.

I have two classes this semester that I didn’t have in the last one. They’re both English classes, one an Introduction to Prose and Fiction, the other a Reading Popular Culture class. Each class has its ups and its downs, the ups mostly being that they introduce me to new works and then discuss them. The downs being all the same stuff I’ve complained about in other posts about school.

I really don’t enjoy literary analysis. No, that’s not entirely accurate. I don’t enjoy doing literary analysis because I’m told to. If I read something and I’m struck with some opinion that I’d like to discuss, just try to stop me from sharing that opinion (and I’ve picked up plenty of things for writing such opinions in essay form that I quite appreciate). But in these classes you’re expected to force yourself to come up with some opinion and then dress it up like you’re not just doing some homework, but like you actually care. And, furthermore, you’re supposed to frame your essay as though you’re certain about this opinion you’re pretending to care about. You can’t say “I think John Authorington’s use of a radioactive lobster is pretty neat because he also used a giant red monster the other time Protagonist Joe was nervous. I wonder if there’s something to that. Let’s look at the evidence…” but you are absolutely expected to say “Authorington uses the radioactive lobster, and other red monsters, to represent Protagonist Joe’s nervousness FOR ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN JUST LOOK AT ALL THE PROOF…” I don’t care for that. I hate pretending that any of my opinions are absolute certainties even when I care about them. When I’m making up crap just to pass an assignment and I’m expected to act like I’m so committed, I feel terrible about that. At least if I could write about stuff I had an opinion on, I’d be able to at least put some gusto into my arguments.

I suppose the argument from the school’s point of view is that they’re trying to teach you how to do analysis of things you do care about, but they have to teach you somewhere. If you don’t find something to opine about in the works that the teacher is teaching, you can’t expect to get to switch to something the teacher doesn’t know just because that’s what you want to write about. My rebuttal is “Fart sound, middle finger, don’t care, shut up.” It’s the same thing that’s bothered me time and again: I don’t care if the school can tell if I’m learning, I care if I can tell that I’m learning. I know, I know. School doesn’t work that way, I know, but the fact that “school doesn’t work that way” is not a reason for me to stop complaining about it. It is, in fact, the reason I keep complaining about it.

These classes have got me to read a number of short stories and stuff, though, which has been nice. And a couple novels too. Tarzan of the Apes and Oroonoko. I might, conceivably, have wound up reading Tarzan someday, but I had never even heard of Oroonoko, so I’m glad I was introduced to it. I like reading books.

How PDR Makes Comics Quickly

Well. Where to begin? This Tuesday’s Secret Government Robots comic was thrown together about two hours before the (admittedly arbitrary) four in the morning deadline. The result was one of the most half-assed comics to date. That isn’t even new art, people. I cut those poses from old pages.

Now I couldn’t have that become the norm. I had to find a way to build up the buffer I once had that has been eaten up by schooling. Well. It occurred to me that I might be able to do a static image (drawing is always the most time-consuming part of this nonsense for me) and just have some characters talking. Maybe over a phone! Brilliant! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sort of thing before.

Anyway, today’s comic is going up late (though, again, the deadline is meaningless and only I would notice) but it will be followed by five more pages that I intend to finish tonight, thus giving me a few weeks in which I can get schooling stuff done, but also hopefully do a better job of future comics.

The story of my least favorite class

Okay, so this little jaunt back to school and poverty of mine is largely an attempt to make myself a better writer. I’m in it for an English degree, I guess, probably going to Creative Writing focus when that is allowed. I’ve only got one straight-up English class this semester, so let’s see how that’s going:

That one course is “Writing For University Students”. I have never been able to find much interest in reading essays. I’ve come right out and said that if a writer can’t make their point by telling a story, I don’t feel like reading it. There’s no harm in that. Nobody cares if you read essays, really. Except when you’re in university. Now I have to read them, and what’s worse, I’m also expected to compose essays that, unlike this one, are not merely screeds written on the spot and never given a second draft. Basically, I’m expected to know how to make an essay that doesn’t suck. I front-loaded my university revival with the “Writing For University Students” course for that specific reason. Apart from the credit, the sole reason I’m in this class is that I recognized my problem here and wanted to do something about it.

Almost everything I know about writing at this point is self-taught. I was barely interested in assembling the skeleton of an education I got in high school, so I didn’t retain much. I had to get my knowledge on the streets, son. Or, y’know, through books and the Internet and whatever. But I kinda felt like I had peaked there. I needed help. I needed someone to teach me. I don’t feel like I am being taught that in this class. This, like my worst experiences with school, is one of those times when I feel like the class is more interested in testing me than teaching me. We’re told what’ll be on the next test, then we’re expected to read up and do the test and we’re told how much we don’t know. We’re given an assignment to write an essay, and then we’re doing that essay and getting marked on how many things we did wrong. I get marks telling me I don’t know stuff and I’m like “Yeah, I know, that’s why I’m here,” but by then the test is over, the essay is written, and I’ve got a mark telling me that I’m an idiot.*

I’m not saying that they’re doing a bad job at running the class. The professor** and the TAs seem, from what I can tell, to be doing a good job at running the exact kind of class I don’t want or like or even understand. I can learn on my own on my own. Why the chunk would I be going there just to be told what to look up somewhere else? Some students probably thrive in this kind of environment. Probably. But I sure don’t. I want some help.

The class does have a weekly extra help thing set up, though, but that just bothers me more. They were smart enough to schedule these sessions at a time of day when no other English classes are being taught on campus, so obviously we students will be free to attend. Except we need more than just English classes to get our degrees. I enjoy Astronomy and I am enjoying my Astronomy class, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t be taking it if I didn’t need a science credit. But I do, so I am. And that class, that non-English Department class, falls in the exact time period our extra help sessions are held. Fancy that. And anyway, surely Writing for University Students is a course that will not solely benefit English students. I expect almost everyone could use that course, many of them probably having classes in the same extra help window.

The school does offer some kind of writing workshop, of which I fully intend to take advantage. But now I’ll be there to get help on the class I’m taking to get that exact help. If I’d skipped out on that class altogether I’d have half the workload I have now and I could use the workshop help to get better at the essays I need to do for other classes. As it stands now the English class is doing nothing more than filling my time with more assignments, tests, and pressure, competing with the very essays in other classes that I wanted to improve.

The point of this sloppily-written, non-edited, non-Academic-level PDR-brand rant is just this: This is the only English class I’m really in so far (actually, now that I stop and think about it, Mythology probably counts toward that too, but whatever), and it is my least favorite class. This is not a good sign.

* I’ve actually done well on the tests and assignments in this class so far, but I know what’s coming. I’ve been through it before.

** I will never be comfortable saying “prof”. It is not a thing PDR can do. I once tried referring to one of my actual cousins as “Cuz” and it just wouldn’t happen. This is a similar situation.

PS – Completely unrelated, but in a History lecture the other day, the professor, speaking of the origins of the Spanish Inquisition said “nobody was expecting it” in complete deadpan. He didn’t acknowledge making the joke, or stop and wait to see if people got it. He just dropped it and moved on. I fully approved of that.