Notes from the Unemployed

September 27, 2009

College is a complete waste of time, designed for idiots who have been trained how to think.

Recently, I was denied a teaching job because of something shocking on my resume. As a result, the only option left to me is continue playing in a band, because my career as an academician has come to a screeching halt, the heels of my sneakers smoking orange on the curb.

Now you may ask, why would something on one’s resume, the very document that is solicited for the approval of said job be in the end the very shred of evidence that cut the lifeline of stable employment at a fashionable and expensive New England College? I am legally barred from mentioning the name of the school, for I doubt that the stuffed turkey brass would approve of what I am about to tell you.

Ask yourself this first, is it right to profit from the folly of others? It will change everything you think you know about the modern educational system. College has become a very profitable business. But, our story, friends, as FDR would say congenially, doesn’t begin until approximately sixty years ago, a far off magical time and place when gas was plentiful and a chicken in every pot signified the American dream, the babies in their nuclear families have aged into the skeletons in our closets.

Anyway, at the conclusion of the Second World War, there were huge droves of men and women returning home after a long, bloody, yet triumphant war. The deployment of the nuclear bomb had changed everything modern man thought himself capable of, and a government funded Renaissance occurred with the passage of the first GI Bill (1944) in the history of the United States. It was a promise to Veterans in exchange for their services in the most destructive conflict known to the modern era, an education would be provided for on the credit of the government, and so a whole generation of people went to college and moved back to the suburbs to work in the gigantic chemical, automobile, steel, grain, and oil factories that had sprouted like weeds to support the war effort in both Eastern and Western hemispheres.

The United States was the most powerful force on Earth at this time, the citizens could even afford to rebuild England, Germany and Japan, now free democratic states like our own. The Middle East was just a blip on the international Radar until 1949, but that is another story for another campfire.

From the seeds of this massive wartime industry sprouted a huge gaggle of Baby Boomers that are dying off today, The Space Program, The Civil Rights Movement, and a host of other things that signified a nation at the absolute height of its civilization. Democracy had won and the benefits were shared around the world.

Now, remove yourself a little down the line. Think about what that means for the College and Universities peppered throughout the country, a tidal wave of financial and intellectual income possibly overloading on some fronts, historically these stone and red brick buildings just quaint shaded monastic havens of meek men of letters, but now financially backed tooth and nail by the most powerful and competitive government on Earth. Fact, more colleges have been built in the last fifty years than in the entire history of the United States, possibly even rivaling the quantity engineered during the European Renaissance. “If you don’t publish kid, you’re finished,” a grey mentor once said to me. The other side of the coin is equally as disturbing, for the massive businesses, Raytheon, GE, Steel, Chemicals, Healthcare, Oil, NASA, IBM, etc. who hit puberty during the massive world wide conflict were in a decade or two finding that since everyone had gone to college or had sought professional training on their own volition and debt, the individual business no longer had to pay for the training of its own staff, historically the most troublesome component in the overhead of the industrial age. Working conditions following the spate of Wars in the first half of the 20th Century dramatically improved, they were a long cry from the days before the industrialization en masse, when larger businesses, like the textile mills of New England, could afford sweatshop labor and would pay for the amenities and training and keeping of a staff. The cost to feed and clothe these usually immigrant worker families was usually more than what there meager salaries could afford.

Imagine the glee of a group of industrial captains, who in the mid seventies would be hanging out puffing fat cigars, trying this new white gold called cocaine, and gloating about the alleviation from having to pay for workers educations and training, and they, the damned unwashed illiterate fools were still willing to work for minimum wage, and such other chortlings that cannot be written here! Spring Break
Woo! Back to the colleges, who had through marketing inroads had now become insanely trendy places to be with the joyous public romps of John Belushi and similar minded cohorts portrayed sympathetically in the public eye for the first time. Mind you, this sort of toga wearing beer chugging frat boy came to symbolize the college experience for America, and the appetites of confident American teenagers turned to sex, drugs, and loud rock music at levels never before heard of in the history of man save Caligula. A generation before the great worldwide war, college was the church of Einstein, Henry James, Reginald Fessenden, Freud, Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, Luther, Euclid, and Newton, quiet, hallowed, and quite often monastically based areas of study peopled only by the rich and the politically influential. It could be said that the American Patriot Horace Mann industrialized public education in the latter half of the 19th Century when he built and instituted the first Normal College in Framingham Massachusetts.

These sacred institutions of thought and simple living that fostered a simple dialogue for countless generations through copying and reediting the works of old, rarely seen in the public eye, except of course at public burnings and whatnot which occasionally pepper the history of the prudent scholar. The war had changed everything, college was public now, a quantifiable industry where papers mean cash and teaching throngs of hard partying community college nitwits can constitute a comfortable and profitable income. It was a new age hip and trendy, party time Wayne, Party on Garth, and money could be made by the government and private bank loan supported students by the basketful, not to mention the new and ever expanding upper middle class who through expanded credit and interest based loans, could afford exorbitant tuition for even the most inane of accredited degrees. Ask yourself, does the world need a Janitor who can recite the most obscure lines of poetry, or a Janitor that is the absolute best at what he does, and is summarily freed from the responsibilities that come with the life of a committed seeker of truth, the much abhorred “academic.”

The personal debt for my generation is staggering in pursuit of this expensive wallpaper, much of which will go to waste in this abysmally overqualified and oversexed job market, where many of the young participants are built into soulless corporate jobs that depend on the Friday paycheck to pay loans that take a grotesque number of years to pay off, the colleges and lending companies thriving heartily on the interest accrued from Buffo the Sophomoric Clown cheating on his history paper so that he can make it to the study of his true love, beer pong. People like this are promised parties and chicks at college, usually by the college marketing committees themselves, not long hours in the dungeons of libraries ferreting out obscure artifacts and precious historical dialogues.
Let’s get a little more modern. Do you know anybody these days between the ages of 18 and 25 who is not in college, planning on going to college, just dropped out of college, taking a class or driving a sister to night school? Businesses made a very simple decision in the hiring process. If you want a job, you must have an accredited diploma, preferably from some expensive school that waves flags and banners with our paint on them. It is a cultural sin to not attend college and partake in the hallowed tradition of tossing filthy ping pong balls into warm flat domestic beer safely housed in wasteful plastic cups. For my own undergraduate degree in English, I averaged about four thousand a semester and these debts are still looming in my subconscious, thank the good lord I come from a middle class family like every other one in this nation who raised children to go to college and find their own heads there. Have sex man, try some things, and just pass your classes and its all good dude. I will not go on to illuminate all of my colorful exploits at that beautiful hilltop college, who’s every nine females equaled one male who delighted in the excesses of youth and studious scholarship. There was a troubling trend at the school though; it had seemed that one could get a degree in just about anything these days.
Like, oh my god, I just got my degree in Fashion Design, or EcoFeminism, and my personal favorite, Underwater Basket Weaving. Hey Mona, Senior Cheerleading Fashion Design Major, just because you don a smutty maid outfit on Halloween, despite it being twenty five degrees out, does not grant your 2.0 sloppy Bachelors Degree an equal status with my hard earned 3.975 Bachelors Degree, but the factory like atmosphere of churning out students has promulgated a lax attitude towards studies, and the only tried result in the end is debt and a severe hangover from the pineapple and crushed strawberry ice luge which will forever flow forth with golden fountains of chilled whiskey to the ignorant dimwits slurping for salvation from the flavorful icy teat. Spring Break Woo! I feel that my devoted occupation to the craft of research and writing allows me to capitalize on these skills, and to participate in the same competitive free market that we all must survive in. If Dr. Dumbledore can get paid to pass Buffo and Mona, so too can I profit from their weary oft zombified Animal House infused brains.
It had seemed that nary a scholar could be found to trade letters, the teachers were too busy grading the papers of the inane borderline dropouts, many still awarded degrees, who if left to their own devices would probably end up as farm laborers or as seamstresses, not that there is anything wrong with those dignified and historically crucial professions, but, dear Buffo and Mona, my dear caricatures, did you have to put yourself and your parents twenty five thousand dollars in debt for four and half years of having a good time dude? This is where it gets personal.
I am a twenty four year old American who is deeply concerned for the welfare of the Academic Institution. The flipside to this greased platitude is that I am also a twenty four year old American who has to contend with rent, living expenses, eating, hanging out with my wife, and putting my own hypocritical ass through school. I am too proud to live with my parents as many of my peers do like Buffo and Mona, who must resort to such infantile measures due to the crushing weight of debt that suddenly drops upon their carefree Cancun tanned shoulders upon the award of their hard earned degree. Capturing the classic mock title of “Twixters”, but I figure if they, my saintly and scholarly parents put up with me for eighteen turbulent years, than they deserved a little time off from their second greatest accomplishment. Their first being my talented brother Kevin who lives a happy life without a college degree, he splits his income between being a high paid security guard for Hollywood Moguls, and playing in rock bands with his American made Fender Strat. He found what he loves, is able to take care of those he loves and fosters a sense of wellbeing in his community with his charming wit and personality. His favorite line, and painfully stinging taunt to me, is “What exactly is college anyway?”
In order to make a living as a scholar is a daunting task, I must stick to my guns as a writer, which requires time and patience and long hours drafting articles and research to complete the various thesis’ and whatnot that all graduate students must contend with in the course of their professional training as researchers and librarians. Even though I am damning the college system, I am a willing participant due to the friends and intellectual adventures I find in the resources afforded to professional researchers of truth. I honestly believe that if I have been born before the mass industrialization with the same innate faculties, I probably would have been raised to be a farmer or a laborer considering my genetically determined size and strength capabilities. I am able to afford these means of academic rigor, and a rather elegant standard of living to boot firstly because I am married, and the tax benefits are glorious, I have also taken out loans, which I work to pay off regularly, scholarships are few but very meaningful, and still my bread is stale and my sausage cold due to the monastic frugality I must employ in service to the pen, paper and candlelight. Being a scholar, set upon my book, requires intense dedication and long hours of study, a lifestyle choice that permits little deviancy or questions of plagiarism in my own original work.
The article on my resume, that cost me a crucial teaching job whose income I was planning on to survive, is cut and pasted directly from my own personal resume which upon request is given up and asked to be distributed freely:

September 2005-Present – Freelance Term Paper Author
I regularly solicit my writing skills to students who are either to rushed or lazy to complete their own academic assignments. Apart from my guide work, this is my most enjoyable occupation. I take pride in being hired for an assignment, and completing it on time and in a professional manner. I have taken up both Undergraduate and Graduate papers in Literature, Philosophy, History, Fashion Design, etc. The variety is the greatest reward in this vocation.

A crucial wellspring of income springs from the employment of my practiced and refined talents as a rhetorician and a writer. I will not tell you the exact figures of this income, but rest assured my wedding last summer had lobster, beef, a loud band and delicious barbeque chicken. I take a lot of pride in all of the work that I do, and it is the American Way to work hard and make money while you are doing it. Doing the homework of others is no crime; outsourcing has become a staple economic trapdoor for those flush with cash and little interest in getting caught in their own lazy habits. Whoa buddy, slow down, lets not fly off the handle here. I explain to all of my clients the responsibilities that come with purchasing a paper, usually in rough draft form, the final copy editing I leave to the purchaser for their own benefit, after all if the professor decided to poke and prod this newfound prodigy of his or her discipline, the client must be forthcoming with reliable knowledge of the subject matter at hand. I deliberately “add” things into the prose itself, sometimes being as plain and boorish as to write “Plagiarized Document!” or just casually misspell a gaggle of words, which if given the slightest poke of attention by the purchaser could be remedied easily. The Purchaser is made aware of the presence of such idiosyncrasies, but no key is provided to the decoding of the supplied drafts. In a very rude personal letter from the Director of the Graduate Program of English, I was denied the lucrative job due my “enabling” of the student to commit plagiarism. I never solicit my own service; all of my clients came to me of their own accord, and the article on my resume was intended as proof of the time and energies I have invested in becoming a finder of fact and a revealer of truth, in other words, a professional researcher. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Fortunately I was not expelled upon this revelation by the prudent headmaster, for not one iota of evidence of plagiarism can be found in my own original work, and I stake my whole soulful integrity on that true and blinding fact. In my own conscience I feel not a single drop of that acidic dripping guilt that must clog the hearts of those that pass in unoriginal work. Ironically, in the perusal of my drafts completed for the contracted commission, of which I often do several, the client ends up learning much more about the topic than what they had learned in the modern industrialized classroom. I invoke a metaphor to describe the guilt of the plagiarist of course, because I cannot imagine what that must truly feel like for the lazy scholar who must resort to outsourcing research and drafting in pursuit of having a good time. It is enjoyable work, and the anecdotes of the trade make for good conversational fodder when shared over a lemon brazed cod with fried russet potatoes with raspberry dressing, a humble meal I often share with the traveling scholars and musicians who frequently crash on my floor when adventuring in the area.
College is about breaking down barriers, the generation following the Second World War had the vision and war tested sense in spades, who triumphed over the greatest evil known to man, and sowed the seeds for Civil Rights and Democracy throughout the world, not to mention a cataclysmic Renaissance of post war art, scholarship, business, literature, cultural identity standards, and the flourishing of the Natural sciences. It is a personal contract that we must make with ourselves when we commit to be students of science and antiquity that we be honest, hardworking and truthful in all endeavors, for most people pretend that if they work hard enough, anybody could reach the moon. Truth is, most people are just willing to pay for the ride instead, and it is disturbingly profitable. One of the thoughts that had given my future hope, the lifeblood of democracy if you will, was that maybe becoming a part time teacher would offset my debt and I would not be called at 2 A.M. by some nitwit in Chicago who cannot pronounce the word perspicacity. Michael Foucault wrote that “Even today, when we reconstruct the history of the concept, literary genre, or school of philosophy, such categories seem relatively weak, secondary, and superimposed scansions in comparison with the solid and fundamental unit of the author and the work.” At first I was angry, then willfully confused and blithely ignorant, but now I am happy to have been rejected for the job, for it gives me time to work on my own interests like my booming band, my professional rock climbing guide service, and of course my own intellectual pursuits. Save for a freak act of Nature, I always hit my deadlines. Go copy a book!

Undergrads, write to your graduate students here.

Grad students, write to your teacher’s pets here.

All venting is anonymous.

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4 Responses to “ Notes from the Unemployed ”

  1. Mike on October 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    A couple of thoughts, Mr/Ms Picklefeather:

    First (and really no offense here), do the words “artistic restraint” mean anything to you? I mean, my goodness. MS Word puts this at 3,200 words. Un-Necessary. And more wordy “rhetorical flourishes” than I can deal with. Hard to read. Again, no offense here, but really …

    Second (and I’m sorry about this, but there’s really no way I can say no offense here), your essay pretty much pisses me off.

    You were indeed “enabling” students in committing plagiarism. Period.

    It’s not right. It’s not right for all of the students who don’t have the money to pay for your stupid lobster at the wedding. And it’s certainly not right according to your university’s code of conduct. So, while it might not be illegal, the university would have been well within its rights to expel you.

    And that’s what I really don’t get. You should have been expelled. I’m rather shocked that you weren’t. What sort of institution would keep you?

    As for your teaching job, you more than deserved to lose it over this.

    The only thing I find more distasteful than you remaining at this institution is your ability to justify what you’ve done. You think it’s okay because you insert phrases and mistakes so that your clients have to do a read-through before turning the essay in? Really? You think it’s okay because your clients come to you? That’s like saying it’s okay for me to cheat on my girlfriend because someone else propositioned me.

    Give me a break.

  2. Dan Stein on October 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I agree with Mike — and more importantly, for someone who claims to have had a 3.975 GPA to match their English BA, you certainly know how to construct a rambling tirade full of poorly punctuated sentences. (I will say, though, that the plethora of GRE vocab words you use is an excellently deceitful device.)

  3. b law on October 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    dood, there wuz, like a typo right in yer resume:

    people are “too” rushed, not “to” rushed. you could have said they were “2″ rushed i suppose.

    also this whole piece is a bunch of pretentious garbage and you come off as some kind of arrogant bastard who is above everyone. also you took way too long to get to the frieking point. I could really only be bothered to skim this thing.

    have a great life in academia, you should fit right in!

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