Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Cold Chillin': Party Schools, Robot Soldiers and More

Yesterday I was walking through the halls of the urban community college where I teach and one of my former students shouted across the lobby, "Hey professor, how ya' doin?...Chillin?....Thanks for that F!" The F has been on the books for a year now, so I'm not sure why he chose today to be upset. Once, last semester he was lurking around outside the office, and I guess he's somewhat notorious, as my office mate began shouting: "What! You haven't flunked out yet?"
I was surprised to see him still hanging around, but there was a DJ in the cafeteria that day, so maybe he came just to hang out. Or maybe he was there on some business involving his transcript and discovered that the F he received in my class had seriously hampered his progress through college. As I was standing on the escalator, I overheard some students talking:
"We have our own DJ! Cool!"
there must have been some non-verbal communication, for then the same student said something like:
"Oh, I'm embarrassed, you must think I'm stupid...I just got excited"
"This place is so high-school," said her friend. It's a complaint I sometimes hear from our students, who don't, contrary to popular belief, always appreciate all the user-friendly character of the school. This particular group of fashionable young women then launched into an intense discussion of our institution's reputation as a "party school."
When I think "party school" my thoughts automatically go to insulated and pampered environment that produces suburban fraternity boys, not the collapsing contraption where I work.
Later that same day, one of my current students, worried about her grade asked, "professor, am I getting a C?" (no, I think the B range right now, and potentially A, but I couldn't discuss it in the middle of class). She turned to a friend and said, "Well the president had a C average, so that makes it all right." I knew she was joking, but said anyway, "The President had a leg-up that you don't have." Another student nodded, "Too true."

Speaking of a leg-up, I think it was my anonymous Mom who wrote that post about the robot soldiers yesterday - thanks for the reminder. Here's article from the BBC about the project. It is chilling.

Also chilling is the story of another American student, born in Houston, that land of party schools, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the young man accused of plotting to assasinate the president. Elaine Cassel described what the issues are in his case in Counterpunch. He was far from the partying atmosphere of Texas fraternities when he was in college, and "Apparently," Cassel writes, "the U.S. had taken advantage of this U.S. citizen's choice to attend school abroad, to make sure he was held in prison there--where torture would be permitted, and counsel would not be provided."
While some GOP hacks might have tried to pass off Abu Ghraib as a series of "fraternity pranks," we know that the s-m practices of our president at Yale and the humiliating tactics used by American, British and Israeli troopsagainst Muslim political prisoners may not be totally disconnected in their psychological roots, but they are not equivalent.

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