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Fall rolls around again.

After a week of murderous heat out here in the 'burbs that the awkward arrangement of intake-outlet grilles does not properly address in the bedroom/addition, I woke this morning to a layer of cold air along the floor.

It was chill and wet, the first hint of fall. Dull and cool all day, it was a boon for a backyard garden that had started to wither after a too-aggressive late season pruning of the monster tomato bushes and the unreasonably aggressive peppers and gourds.

Oh, it won't be fall proper for another few weeks, but since when has the calendar ever meant anything? The Babylonians gave it to Gregory, and Gregory asked us all very nicely to go along with it. It's been a little touch and go ever since.

I suppose I'm officially "old" now, having been described so by somebody over the age of 18. The other day, I heard a mumble from the back of the class, "I think that old guy that sits up front said..." Yes, I'm back in school, and yes, I find it to be on the whole disheartening. If I spent any more time shaking my fist and shouting "Damned kids!" I don't know that I would have any time to spend on learning the material.

There are two other old guys in the class with me. You can tell they're old because they make eye contact when they hand you something or take something from you, and they say things like "thanks" and "good morning" and "oh my back, it just doesn't feel the same since they quit letting me take the buggy out on the highway, damn auto-mo-biles!"

The English course is baffling. I thought it might be some sort of extended aptitude test. My first paper came back with corrections on it from the professor that at first I took to me some sort of shorthand with which I was not familiar. I realized finally that she was actually correcting some words that were spelled correctly because she either couldn't spell them herself, or she didn't recognize them as words. She also values "participation" and "unique contributions" rather highly. I will quote a classmate's constructive criticism for another's rough draft in its entirety:

"ur writing really good it made me laugh da whole time i was readin it"

This is worth the same, in terms of the bottom line for the course, as another classmate's thoughtful and insightful analysis of tone and inter-verse contrast, posted as feedback for the same draft. This is worth full participation points despite going against every guideline and rule from the teacher's policy and from the coursework on group discussions.

I'm just going to try to keep my head down, turn the work in, and not light myself on fire the next time the professor tells me that my assignment wasn't "inspired enough by the source material", or in other words, that I didn't simply mad-lib the study piece and write my name on it with crayon.

Aside from some other fairly basic stuff (European History, pre-Westphalia), I'm also in an accelerated/bridge math course. For the first time, I find that I actually enjoy math. Perhaps having finally been in situations where ignorance of advanced math was actually a hindrance, I've learned to value it. Perhaps I enjoy it since I'm not being forced by The Man to be there. Perhaps, having learned a lot of applied math in the course of learning RF theory and application, I have more of a mind for it. But still, there are frustrations.

The number of flagrantly inappropriate questions that come up are astonishing. If you aren't sure how to handle negative fractions, you surely don't need to be taking up everyone's time in the middle of a discussion on intervals to learn how. When the class rules clearly state "NO COMPUTERS, IPADS, CELLPHONES, OR OTHER GENERAL PURPOSE DEVICES. WITHOUT EXCEPTION, ONLY THE FOLLOWING DEVICES ARE APPROVED:" you should not raise your hand in class and argue that you can just turn the wifi off on your iPad and that the rules aren't fair. You shouldn't spend fifteen minutes of everyone's class time in the third week of class asking if you really do need the textbook despite the six handouts detailing why the textbook and the online access code are mandatory, and the frequent and specific references to it in the coursework handouts.

You should not be arguing about the basics when your eyes glaze over every time you are called on to contribute in class.

There are fresh high school graduates who frequently argue with the professor (PhD, Mathematics) because the pattern recognition games that they were taught in order to pass standardized tests aren't working and they think "the equation must be wrong". More than once I have heard "the equation must be wrong" because it was simply not in the format they needed it to be in for the shortcuts to work.

The patterns bullshit ("visual learning" or "visual math" I guess it's called now, AttG says it's called Pearson Math) is killing me. This stuff was, I think, just starting to crop up when I was going through High School but even then it was something you were taught to do as a sanity check against your final answers. Now apparently it's all you get taught - the little shortcuts, the "pick and stick, divide by two", "every exponent is even", "minus half then squared", all of it. They're capable of regurgitating answers when an expression or equivalent is in some standard format, but they don't actually understand basic algebra, how to manipulate variables, or what to do when the pattern isn't hanging low and ripe. And this is a majority of the class.

"This is ridiculous, why can't we learn this visually?"

"What do you mean I shouldn't be in this class? I just passed honors math!"

If you ever thought that there wasn't any such thing as teaching to the test, never fear. You can take my word of honor on it. It's real, and it's horrifying. And these are the kids who are intentionally seeking out higher level math, trying to get into engineering programs, trying to do the "hard" stuff.

Being back to school is certainly doing nothing to help me feel less alienated, or less angry at my country. It seems like it's a daily rehashing of the same observation that I can't help but making over and over again when I look at the way things are, have been, and will always be when too many humans get involved:

If just a few more people gave a little bit more of a shit, this could be so awesome.

But here's hoping for some personal development, and here's hoping for fall.

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