Monday, July 30, 2012

Wherein the Matronly Faith in the Future is Crushed

Tonight, the Matron and her family took in Batman!!

Can she pause here and note that this poorly placed and generally, well, poor picture is why she's soon moving her blog?  Look for info as soon as she's in the process of setting up elsewhere under the actual bona fide Matronly registered name Minnesota Matron dot com.

If that excitement isn't enough for you, let's consider the car ride TO The Dark Knight Rises.   The Matron tries to make every mile count:  her children are captives for the maternal lecture!

The London Olympics provided inspiration and fodder for tonight's lecture.   For the Matron, the Olympics is sometimes a wee little bit about HER and all the stuff she cannot do.  Like swimming.  Or balancing on her toes on a tiny bar or, well, going to London for a month for that matter.

But as God-Buddha-Oprah-Allah-Universe is her witness, her children will make something of themselves!  Who else is she going to live through at this point?

Back to the minivan and captives children.

Matron:  "Did you guys watch that swimming relay?  Those gymnasts?  What discipline and drive!  What good models for setting a goal and devoting yourself to it.  What did you think?"

Merrick:   "Is St. Paul and Minnesota the same thing?"

Matron (OMIGOD):  "Merrick.  You know this.  St. Paul is the city we live in and it's in the larger STATE of Minnesota."    She just let the whole 'is' 'are' issue go.

Merrick:  "Oh yeah.  I keep forgetting."

He starts fourth grade in the fall.  The Matron let the whole drive-desire-discipline thing go too.

The Matronly faith in her future -- humanity's future -- was further challenged at the movie.  No, it wasn't Bruce Wayne who bothered or the adorable up-and-coming Robin or slinky Hathaway . . . but the movie ushers.

Yours truly does not sit through a two hour movie without at least one bathroom visit.  This time, she assisted Merrick as well and waited for him outside of the men's room, where four ushers were huddled -- three young men and a woman, all late teens or early 20s.

Guy Usher One:  "You still going to XX community college?"

Matronly ears perked up!  These were her people!

Guy Usher Two:  "Who needs school?  My uncle has a government job.  Good pay, security.   And get this -- he's going to retire when he's 37!!    He's going to help me get in so school totally isn't worth it.  I can retire before I'm 40."

Girl Usher:  "That is so cool!  I want one of those jobs."

Guy Usher One:  "I told you that college was just a huge money suck.  Who needs it when you can cash out at 37?"

Guy Usher Two:  "Yeah, I'm going to sit on my ass and punch some numbers or mail shit, and then the party starts before I'm too old."

Girl Usher:  "More people should get these government jobs.  Who needs this reading and math b.s. they make you go through, when all you need to do is work for the government?"

Wait!  The Matron looked around, disoriented?  Was this the Soviet Union of the 1970s?  Kafka, reincarnated as a joke, precisely aimed at the Matron?

Nope.  America 2012.  She listened for a bit as the ushers plotted their futures, lit with the promise of fat government pay checks and the Miller Lite Festival that started promptly at age 37.  Of course, nobody articulated precisely what they would retire from or what branch of government they would be working for or what might happen if everyone did indeed decide to 'get these government jobs.'      Nor did they consider that reading, writing, calculating and basic general knowledge might be -- please must be -- required precisely for certain 'government jobs.'    But clearly, these young people believed that education was for morons who wanted to waste money.   Part of the career plot involved the utter dismissal of any intellectual endeavor.

Guy Usher Two:  "I actually sorta feel sorry for those suckers who waste all their money on school.  What a waste."

General agreement.

The Matron fully appreciates and tolerates the foibles and innocence of Youth, in general.  She too was once a young adult, scheming for the future and generally not knowing of what she spoke or schemed.  That can be forgiven.    The disdain for intellectual pursuits?

This saddens her but can also be forgiven.

Education is both ideal and big business.  The two bump up against one another to construct an impossible situation of sorts.  The ideal doesn't seem to die.   Indeed, ask any politician and you'll hear that educating our youth is one of our greatest responsibilities:  college!  The Matron doesn't even need to explain this as we all know-- going to college, getting an education, is a part and parcel of the American dream for our children (all children - this ideal knows few borders).

What's left unspoken here is that the ideal has shifted.  The ideal of education isn't mostly about knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself, but education as a means to a better life.  By better she means richer.  Education is mostly about money:  securing your position in the middle-class or moving into it, moving up, getting that dream job.  The 'better life' for you and your children is mostly about financial security and a little tiny bit about knowledge.  This is not what Locke, Hume, Mill, Rousseau and Wollenstonecraft had in mind when they helped (in their various historical eras) solidify the ideal of education that emerged during the Age of Enlightenment.  No -- theirs was about an educated citizen, that the well-rounded pursuit of knowledge was good for the spirit of the world, on an individual and collective level.   The pursuit of knowledge elevated the individual and society, created a more just, humane and sophisticated person and world.

The remnants of that original ideal and impulse are what politicians cling to and what we still recognize when we send our children off to college or otherwise extol the virtues of education.  They exist.

In practice, however, the ideals lose their luster.   The problem is that education for the sake of education itself -- the pursuit of knowledge -- is a financially disastrous endeavor.  Who can go to college simply to suck up everything there is to know about botany, philosophy or comparative literature?   

Do you know anyone?

Probably not.

Like most ideals -- honesty, love, faith -- education is shinier in theory than it is in practice.   Education is big business as much as it is ideal.  Those ushers?   They were onto something.  For if your definition of a meaningful life is about financial security -- and perhaps, belief in God -- why would you need to read Foucault or master calculus?

That, friends, is what the Matron got out of Batman.  Which is why her children hate going to the movies with her and like to wear headphones in the van.