Vulcan’s Peak

Archive for the 'college' category

Ladies and gents, get your slingshots ready…

March 27, 2006 6:50 pm

…’cause I’m leaving myself wide open on this one.

We turned in our first stories for my fiction class today. Still a work in progress; nothing’s final until we turn in portfolios at the end of the term. So I would love your thoughts on this one. I managed to trample the old adage that beginning writers should “write what they know.” City government, hydraulic brakes, circus acrobats, superheroes, and journalists – all things I don’t know much about.

I’m also going to put another fragment up for your perusal. It was going to be my story for today, but then it turned into one of my plot-less wonders. If something strikes you, could you give me a clue?

Today, Eat Pi!

March 14, 2006 12:49 am

Happy 3.14, folks.

So! Nope, still not dead. Dead wouldn’t be running around quite this much (insert zombie joke from Jachyra here). But it’s late and I’m tired, so here are the highlights:

1. I’m going to Boston next year (GLEE!) – my acceptance letter from Emerson came last week.

2. I have an ensemble part in Pauper Players’ upcoming performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which means that I get to trot around on stage moving set pieces and clouds and such without the necessity of learning lines.

3. Classes are looking good: Shakespeare, Writing Fiction, Medieval European History, and voice. These are a few of my favorite things!

More tomorrow if you’re lucky.

“Spring” break on the horizon

February 23, 2006 3:48 pm

‘Course, the weather we’ve been having recently makes it seem less absurd and February is always spring in Florida… Gah.

Well, if anyone still wants to associate with me after this little expression of the interesting times in which we live, I am coming home on Saturday and will be in town for a week! Tae, I have something for you. Elf, I have nothing for you, because you didn’t leave anything behind.

My exams are tomorrow…I might even be ready, but at this point, ain’t much I can do. So here’s to a fun evening with friends!

Folly in Pennsylvania

February 21, 2006 6:48 pm

My first word in the matter of a Pennsylvania school board voting to discontinue the International Baccalaureate Programme is that I am extremely biased. Almost unabashedly so. The program and the friends I made there made my high school experience what it was, and I treasure that. I also credit IB with allowing me to stretch my mind, open my horizons, and challenge what I thought I was capable of.

So first, read these if you haven’t already:
AP: PA school board votes down Baccalaureate
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Educaton program splits Upper St. Clair
Just for good measure: Pug’s Place on the issue

That said, I would like to point out that there are some disgusting aspects of this story that should be apparent to anyone who is moderately interested in education – American or otherwise. Whether or not the Upper St. Clair school board wants to recognize it, we live in an increasingly globalized society. But Julie Quist, president of a conservative education group seems to think that loyalty is like a glass of water: when you use it all in one place, there ain’t any more. The only patriotism that might be undermined by an international, globalized view of the world is that blind sort of patriotism that slaps a “Free and Proud” sticker on the bumper and will follow the stars and stripes off a cliff if that’s where it leads. To my way of thinking, educating our children to think past that is not only a good thing but a necessary thing. Yes, America is a great place to live for most of us, but hubris will only get us into trouble. And “sense of sovereignty”??? All hail King George?? I think not.

Similarly, the allegation that IB’s endoresment of Earth Charter indoctrinates students with Marxist principles smells like rotting fish. Despite our German class jokes about Fred(rich Engels) and Karl (Marx)… No. There’s really nothing I can say about this one. Hell, I’ve read Marx…but in college – and my conservative little formerly Southern Baptist college at that. This is so incredibly bogus and these people don’t have a clue. IB is about making you think, forcing you to think, twisting your arm until you start to think for yourself. IB and indoctrination is a contradiction in terms. The classic liberal arts model that IB presents embraces original thought based on competency in a given subject. Or to put it another way, first you must know what you’re talking about, then you must have an opinion. Don’t you wish that were a rule for life?

It seems that the serious matters lie in less sensational lines. IB does cost the schools a pretty penny, not only for the exams taken at the end of the program, but also for lab equipment in the sciences and for teacher training. And education is notoriously underfunded just as teachers are notoriously underpaid. I can easily see how a program benefitting a small percentage of the student population would slip under the axe.

Especially when IB can look so much like other programs – for example, AP (which has American roots, if you’re still angsting over the first point). Now, I have no serious qualms about AP (though I’ve seen articles that would argue otherwise). In fact, I think that one of the smart things about Choctaw’s IB program is that it allowed for a modicum of overlap between IB and AP. Junior year we had English classes that were joint IB/AP and we all took the AP exam at the end. The same year, we were all doing U.S. history, so there was little practical difference between the AP class and the IB one; again, we all took the AP exam. In many other places, an AP course (or an honors one in 9th and 10th grade) and an IB one looked fairly similar, allowing people with really tight schedule to slip into the other program, especially in earlier years.

So why waste the money on this foreign program? What does it do that AP doesn’t? I would argue that it offers continuity. Like a college, it offers you a four-year track and expects you to work at a high standard in all subjects. It encompasses not only core subjects (English, math, science, history), but also requires four years of a foreign language, a certain amount of community service, and as icing on the cake, a four thousand word research paper (hey, fifteen pages was a lot at the time). And that continuity lends an almost interdisciplinary aspect to IB. Each of your teachers knows what you’re getting from the others and is aware of how the calculus you’re learning relates to the European history you studied two years ago or how issues pertinent to biology are important to a novel you’re reading for English.

Beyond that, the idea is suggested to you that you are not learning facts for the sake of cramming your head full of facts. You are in fact learning how to cram your head with facts. You are learning how to draw relations and correlations between facts and how to derive implications from them. While you learn about the world in which you are expected to be a global citizen, you are studying the art of learning. It is the argument for any liberal arts education, and I would apply it to my college experience just as readily. I’ve called high school my “preface to Furman” and I’ve called college “IB, part 2.” It works either way.

This is also the answer to board member Dr. Trombetta’s statement, “I want to know what that has to do with education” regarding an exam question about marriage forms and gender relations (which would be a perfectly viable question in my History of Africa course right now, by the way). The point is not to test knowledge but to encourage critical thought.

You might think that the 700 students who are suddenly no longer part of the IB program would be only too happy to give up the foreign language they hate or the extended essay they dread writing. And no doubt some of them are. But I suspect there are many – especially juniors and seniors – who feel cheated. Who were told that IB was an investment that would pay off by helping to prepare them for college. Who have put in a hell of a lot of work and feel unappreciated and unvalued by their community.

And that seems to me like a damn shame.


February 16, 2006 7:14 pm

Poetry slam went well. There was a really interesting mix this year – lots of hiphop-y and rap-y type stuff, which interests me as a novelty if nothing else – which I didn’t remember from past years. The audience was really into it, and to no one’s great surprise, the few of us who were a little more conventional didn’t last past the first round. So I actually only read the first of the poems you see below. I’m not so much heartbroken over not having to compose a poem in five minutes, though now I’m curious to try. Delusions of grandeur shattered again. I’m over it – friends have been really great, espcially CCLC people (my Furman family, really), to include an adorable note from one of our newbies (in whom I sometimes see more than a little of myself, two years ago).

A Sudden Focus

Turning back, he stops,
squinting as the Ford’s dusty hood
turns dragonfly blue
in the four pm sunlight of mid-October.

The car’s tapered nose and sassy eyes
hit him like the first guitar chords
after the amp kicks in.
He quivers like a cymbal,
in the cacauphonous midst
of a bustling WalMart crowd,
focused on that curvaceous little car.

Did Jessie still drive a car like that?
Back in high school she used to squeeze her drum set
one piece at a time
into the back seat of her Ford Focus,
hitching up her jeans before they fell off her hips.

Those days, Jessie dreamed of leaving home
getting her eyebrow pierced
hitting it big –
back when the old gang tried to start a band.

Practicing a riff, she used to purse her lips,
pounding, repeating, perfecting,
until a wild smile spread ran her face,
tossing her head as sound ricoched around the garage.

When he dealt out chords, she would cut the deck
syncopating, improvising, slipping him ace glances
until his fingers slipped and the whole group
fell apart with a crash

louder but less shocking than the slam of Jessie’s trunk
when she packed that dragonfly car,
pointing it into the sunset.
“So long, ya’ll,” she saluted,
heading for flight school in Colorado.

Dodging a cell-phone-shopper with a baby,
he surveys the parking lot,
watching the back of a woman in orange for
a full
half minute
before deciding she’s somebody else.

Circling the blue Ford, he half expects
to see it full of drums,
but all he finds is a bumper full of stickers:
Vote Bush. Greek letters. In pink: I (heart) Jesus.

The drum solo in his chest
stops dead.

* * * * *

The Musings of One Whose Neighbor Owns a Moped

I wouldn’t want to leave you in the dark
when one day you come home to find it gone –
that moped I hear squealing as you park.

I lift the blinds to watch you disembark,
You pat the bike and stumble off, mid-yawn.
I wouldn’t want to leave you in the dark

Temptation sure is strong to leave my mark
and leave that thing in pieces on the lawn:
that moped I hear howling as you park.

But crime, in truth, is really not my lark
Defacing strangers’ property at dawn?
I wouldn’t want to leave you in the dark.

Temptation sure is strong to leave my mark,
to take your whining bike and chain it down.
that moped I hear sputtering as you park.

So if you find your bike has lost its spark,
Or cannot find the motor I’ve withdrawn –
I wouldn’t want to leave you in the dark
about that moped, squealing as you park.

True story, that one. I know several of you love motorcycles and I’m okay with that, but this moped drives me up the wall. Whining in or out all day and half the night, then joy-riding around the parking lot… My walls are thin and the thing is LOUD. Oh – and I really want to get the word “lark” out of this thing. This is one of my problems with reading too many old books…I pick up too much old slang and when I try to write with it, it sounds precocious. But when you read it out loud, you can gloss over “lark” and move along to the next line easy enough.

P.S. Jumping off the bridge: my Johari window. 

As long as I remember the password, I’m still in business

February 15, 2006 6:38 pm

Good grief, it HAS been forever since I posted! No wonder all of you are mad at me! In the interest of putting off the reading I should do for history of Africa and the essay I should be writing for German, here goes. (Hell, last on the agenda was laundry and next may be making brownies. And I wanted to be in bed around midnight?)

I had a wonderful weekend with the CSC at the beginning of the month – how fun to all (almost all) be in the same place again!

I got an acceptance letter this week! Rosemont will have me. Slight confusion about opening the letter and having the actual letter saying “you’re accepted” stuck to the inside, so all Mother pulled out when she was on the phone with me were the sheets for “Intent to Enroll” and such. Dad solved the mystery later, fortunately! Then slight confusion regarding the date by which they want to hear back from me – written in as 2/24/06. Eeep!! I have no guarantee of hearing from Emerson by then, not to mention the fact that I’m one of the most indecisive people on the planet. So I called them this afternoon and the woman I spoke to said the date was flexible and made a note on my file to not expect my reply until late March. So! Here we go again. I may have to find a way to visit these places soon-ish…

In more local news, I’ve put my head in the noose and agreed to be a contestant in the annual Poetry Slam that our English Honor Society puts on. I put my name in a couple months ago when the list was three people long and the organizing committee was desperate for people. Now the event is tomorrow evening, and I’m a little nervous. The structure is that there are about a dozen of us competing with a handful of audience judges. In the first two rounds, we read a previously composed poem, with a few contestants eliminated after each round. The last few who make it to the third round have five minutes to compose a poem on a topic chosen by the audience. We shall see. I will have to post the poems I plan to read tonight – one of them some of you have seen already, the other is newer.

Beyond that, there’s the usual sources of busyness. Tests and papers, books to read, German movies to watch, lots of video projects at work, trying to get recommendations for a scholarship application, trying to find time to write the application, planning a bridal shower, convincing self that my stuff is decent enough to read for an audience tomorrow night, plus a sprinkle of trying to track down people who won’t return e-mails: nothing new under the sun. And yet, there’s always something new. And then WHY do I let myself get ensnared in another Lord Peter novel? Save it two weeks for spring break! says Common Sense. Just peek at the first chapter as an incentive, murmers Temptation. Madness ensues.

Comments on a Monday night

January 23, 2006 6:39 pm

First performance of The Content of Our Character was this evening, and I think we can call it an unqualified success!

An amusing take on an old joke: Comedity. I like the last line.

And given the title of this blog, I have to link to this PvP. He may say Betelgeuse, but we all know that’s not what he really means.

Is that her? Nooo-wait, yes it is!

January 18, 2006 6:10 pm

Jen (of “Quote of the Day” fame) had a fun haircut experience this weekend and came back a whole new person! Her stylist was a self-acknowledge perfectionist who felt the need to straighten her curly curly hair to make sure he’d cut it straight. Very cute.jen_straight.jpg

Musings in future tense

6:01 pm

I had an amusing phone call this evening.

Actually, lets start with the brochure I recieved a week or two ago. It was a bit frustrating at the time because here was an ad for a grad program, just when I’d made my decisions, sent off my applications, and thought I knew where I was going, for the next few years, at least. And here’s this Mary Baldwin College thing, but it looked intriguing, so I browsed through the brochure. Basically, they try to combine the study of Renaissance lit and drama with the performance of the same. And me being the Shakespeare-dweeb that I am, that sounded like my kind of nerdiness. But it also sounded like a lot of money to play for a couple of years and then go be an actor (not likely), a director (less likely), or a teacher/professor. Now the last is perfectly possible: my dad has made the comment that he could see me as an academic someday and so could I, but it’s not where I think I want to go right now – I’m getting tired of academic research; the idea of a life of academic research is not so appealing just now. So I ditched the brochure. ‘Cause I know what I’m doing! I’m going to go be an editor. Right?

Anyway, a Mary Baldwin student working at the graduate admissions office gave me a friendly phone call this evening. At first, I was inclined to get rid of him, but he was polite and I wasn’t in the middle of anything, and the program had looked like my kind of nerdiness, so I let him talk.

There’s something about leading a phone conversation that you have no stake in and are in complete control over that is innately fun. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mean or manipulative, I merely exercised some leading questions (“And how did YOU come to be at Mary Baldwin?” Sometimes people have interesting stories. He did – he tried to make it as an actor in NYC). And sure, if I’m not accepted to Emerson or Rosemont, maybe I would consider this thing. Or maybe not. He gave me the admission office’s phone number but I didn’t write it down. I could find it if I wanted it. ‘Cause right now, I still think I know what I’m doing. But maybe when I have my midlife crisis, I’ll go back and get my PhD and be an academic.

GRE results and other hijinks

November 12, 2005 6:23 pm

The GRE is all over and my brain none the worse for wear! I was down to the line in time on the math section as usual, but had no problem finishing verbal. I think my verbal score might have been higher on a paper test though – the computer doesn’t allow you to go back and review your answers or skip questions and go back (my verbal SAT was somewhat higher, but I suspect that’s not a fair comparison – though a tempting one, since they seem to use the same scale). However, I loved being able to take the writing section on the computer – being able to move things around and add things in without a lot of lines and arrows. When the computer gave me my results for verbal and math, I was very confused – math was apparently higher, and I definately felt less confident about that section. Fortunately for my state of bewilderment, the prep book includes a conversion chart of sorts. On average, a 640 verbal puts you in the 91st percentile, but a 670 math puts you in the 67th percentile. So life is normal after all.

Anyway, it was all over by 4:00, so I came home and had time to attempt to make bread (didn’t knead well enough, I think – at any rate it is much denser than it should be, though still tastes good!). I spent the evening with a group of foreign study folks, playing Phase 10 and watching an amusing movie called Bandit. Good times.

This afternoon I actually went to the football game and will even admit to enjoying it… I don’t know when I’ve been to a football game (high school or college) and our team actually WON! Makes it decidedly more enjoyable, though a more dedicated fan might have been bored – the other team didn’t put up much of a fight. They didn’t score until after halftime and never really had a chance, though they might have caught up in a fifth quarter – final score was 34-21, I think. This was the last home game of the regular season, so potentially the last chance to see the band – my REAL motivation for going, especially since one of my roommates is a flautist. They were great! Their show this year is music used in Bond movies (lots of twirling of
batons-on-fire seemed appropriate somehow…). The music nerd in me was well pleased.

Thursday evening, I went to see the theater department’s fall show, which was fun. The play, Moonchildren, is about a group of college students in the ’60s. Odd to see my friends and peers in ’60s styles, but there was also a strong sense of how little college life has really changed in forty years, technology notwithstanding (the irony demons are going to get me for typing a sentence like that in a blog…). But though the plot is full of Vietnam, protest marches, and worries about being drafted, it’s also full of the same concerns about growing up, worries (or lack thereof) about grades, and nasty break-ups that we see all the time here. Also fun because I knew most of the cast! – three of my buddies from England were in it, as well as a handful of others I knew from foreign study, classes, etc. Several of them seemed typecast – or at least like they were playing exaggerations of a part of their own personality (which made one particular romance WEIRD AS HELL – they would never get together in real life). Then of course, there’s one particular theater major who really belongs in the sixties anyway…. But the play was good.