An Open Letter to UWO English Undergrads.

Posted: 30th June 2011 by traumaturgist in Uncategorized
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Another oldie, but hey – worth repeating…..

An Open Letter to (UWO) English Undergrads

As the school year winds down and I come out of another wish-you-were-beer mental haze induced by one too many half-literate undergraduate exams, I once again return to cultivating my master plan of world improvement.1 However, it also occurred to me that this was the perfect opportunity to remind undergraduates of a few basic facts of human existence.

Ready? I’ll try to list these beginning with the most important, but hey – for some of you dumbasses, just starting anywhere is a drunken stumble in the right direction.

  1. YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL. I know, I know – some moron of a high-school English teacher somewhere told you your MySpace writing was soulful and your poetry was deep, edgy and insightful – either because they wanted to sleep with you or because you were a speck above the usual zeroheads that come through Ontario’s school system these days. Naturally this led you to believe that every single idea in your brain was similarly valuable and must obviously be rewarded with stellar marks in university. Well…allow me to disabuse you of this misapprehension. First – let me assure you that, based on the crop of cabbageheads that come through undergraduate English classes these days, your high-school teachers are as desperately in need of remedial education as you. Actually more so – because they need to be weaned off the alcohol-soaked delusion that they’re actually preparing you for university. They are not. Second – petition your old high schools to change the fluorescent lighting…maybe check the water supply? Does your school still use asbestos imported from some Central Asian country still listed under the hammer and sickle in your pre-1985 school atlas? Get rid of it…something there is scrambling synapses.
  2. GET OVER YOURSELVES. You might be victims of a poisonous, hand-wringing, doe-eyed politically-correct school system (where apparently “fucking the dog and doing no work” is regarded as an “alternative learning style”), but university is trying to prepare you for the real world. In the real world you will fail. You will suffer stinging defeats. You will encounter snakes that will stab you in the back and do whatever they can to get ahead (Christ, kid, I have to deal with this – you think you’re immune?). If you’re lucky (and I hope you are), you will meet with as many victories. But understand that while your high school doesn’t have the balls to teach you how to fail (which is, incidentally, one of the most valuable lessons you will ever learn in life), this is why we mark with the red pen.
  3. YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED. I have no idea where this came from offhand, but there seems to be this “entitlementality” among many undergrads that leads you to think that we are magically beholden to you to give you the highest marks it is in our power to give. Why? Well, because you are you, of course! How can I put this discreetly?……Fuck no. Your ideas may make some sort of idiot savant brilliant sense in your mind, but I am here to inform you that other people exist, and they do not think the same way you do (this is probably the second most important lesson university will teach you if you haven’t clued in to this quite yet). To wit: whining and bitching and complaining about how you think you deserved a different mark might have worked with spineless high school teachers eager to bodyslam you through the system so you become someone else’s problem, but it doesn’t fly here. Learn this.
  4. QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY. How many times have I had to deal with dumbass undergrads who complain about a grade they got, crying “I’m upset! I put x amount of hours work into revising this paper so I deserve at least an x%”? If you want economics and an intellectual world safely insulated from meaningful human experience, go to Ivey or the Shoe-lick School of Business. I wish you happiness in your future role as capitalist drone #4491280-3354EV. I am here to tell you that the arts and humanities, at their best, deal in human experience and life knowledge. We English and humanities graduate teachers and professors, as its custodians, are here to teach you that truly deep and meaningful thinking is painful yet beautiful, and that there is no evolution and maturity without pain and suffering. Your parents (most likely), your high school (absolutely) and this culture (without a doubt) do their best to try and convince you otherwise – we are here, ideally, to show you exactly how full of shit they all are when they try to insulate you from real life experience. Life is painful. Thinking is painful. Now I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking I’m smug and self-satisfied because you already know how painful growing up is. And you’re probably right – I grew up blissfully unaware of all the nasty shit you can find on the Internet and in other places these days. But dude/dudette, you ‘aint seen nothin’ yet. Believe it or not, the arts and humanities are the best existential investment in your future you will ever make. Economics and business might teach you how to pay the bills and subsist as a human, but we teach you how to be a human being. Trust me – it ‘aint as self-evident as you may think.
  5. Now I know not all undergraduates that step through my rooms are the worst-case scenarios I’ve described (thank God)…in fact, some of you are quite bright – which is refreshing in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But there are enough of you (and enough of you who mistakenly think this doesn’t apply to you) to warrant a statement of principle. I’m like that.

  1. This usually involves my dressing up as a little green alien/Man in Black, abducting all the mouthbreathing dolt adolescent males who miraculously made it into university, and planting my own personal version of the V-chip in your testicles so I can edit out the idiocy in your future spawn (read: all that crosseyed sperm floating around in a nutsack fuelled by stale Doritos, Internet porn, jizz-encrusted socks and knuckle-dragging despair).