Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Don't Need You to Like, Carry Me Around and Stuff

There is a scene in the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Gaby Hoffman's character Jessica purchases a plane ticket for the character Jonah (Tom Hanks' character's 8-year-old son) and she says, "Do you want me to put into the computer that you're 12, so they don't like, try to carry you around and stuff?" And that line always reminds me of incoming college freshmen.

Twelve years ago, I started working as a graduate assistant for the department of freshmen orientation. (Although I think the term "freshmen" has been determined to be politically incorrect. I believe the politically correct term is "first year student." But I'm too lazy to type that out so on MY blog, "freshmen" it is.) The freshmen orientation semester-long course is required for graduation. Then (and now) I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea. You see, student retention then (and now) was ridiculously low. And all kinds of Very Important Research shows a strong link between good freshmen orientation programs and high(er) retention. However. Telling an 18-year-old that she or he "needs" to do anything does not go over well. Because, remember? When you're 18, you know everything and you REALLY don't need people to like, carry you around and stuff.

The director of the orientation program was kind enough to let me work for her during the summer (because being an unemployed graduate student - surprisingly - doesn't pay very well) and every summer, the phones ring off the hook. Incoming freshmen (and ironically, their parents) would call in by the hundreds, telling us why they didn't need to complete the orientation requirement. Typically, it had to do with their tremendous level of maturity and knowledge. A wee sampling of those calls:

Me: Orientation Department. May I help you?

Incoming-soon-to-be-pregnant freshman female: Yeah, like, um, hi? My boyfriend has gone to Moron U. for two years now, and I've been up visiting him every weekend since I was a sophomore in high school (at this point, blood starts pouring out of my mouth - I have literally bitten through my tongue because I successfully prevented myself from saying, "If your parents aren't DYING to be grandparents, they're not very smart") so I don't need to take the orientation class because, I like, know where everything is and stuff.

Me: I see. So then, you're familiar with our 18-floor-library.

FF: Well, I like, know where it is and stuff. After all, it is the tallest building on campus. I can see it from boyfriend's apartment.

Me: Uh-huh. So then you know how to find everything you need, because the orientation course includes a major component on using the library.

FF: Um, ye-ah. Like, who doesn't know how to use a card catalogue.

Me: That's interesting, because the library uses multiple databases for journal articles; I don't think a card catalogue has been seen for a quite some time now.

FF: Well, like I can find magazines and stuff.

Me: Also interesting, because my hunch is most of your professors won't find magazine articles acceptable scholarly sources.

FF: I'm sure I can figure it out.

Me: Okay, what about, say, applying for freshman forgiveness. Could you do that?

FF: Oh yeah. That's like, where your roommate kills herself and you automatically get a 4.0, right?

Me: Again, interesting, but not exactly.

FF: Look. I really, really don't need to take orientation, okay? Like, do you need my mom to call or something?

Me: No, I think that would actually have the opposite of the intended effect. You're probably going to have to take the course, regardless of how long you've been coming here.

FF: That's SO lame. That's going to be, like, a total waste of my time. I TOLD you, I'm not one of THOSE freshmen who like, needs a tour and stuff. I KNOW where everything is.

Me: Well then, maybe you can assist your orientation instructors. Maybe you can, like, be their assistant and stuff? You can help all THOSE freshmen - maybe you can, like, carry them around and stuff.

FF: Do you get more credit hours for that?

Me: Yeah, I don't think so.


On a completely different note, you know you're REALLY old when you see a 10-year-old boy riding his bicycle down the street while TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE!!!!


Blogger Jenny said...

As a new parent, I hate reading "it is all the parents' fault" type comments, but I have to say: I think a lot of these conversations are the parents' fault. My in-laws thought it was fun to teach their kids that "we are intellectually superior to everyone" and "rules are for other people." My husband has gotten burned on those messages enough times to unlearn them by now, but as a 19-year-old college sophmore he decided not to go to orientation for his study abroad in Japan because it would impair the "purity" of the experience. Needless to say he later realized that was a mistake. I plan to teach my kids that "rules are probably there for a reason, wait and see what it is before judging" and "even if you are bored out of your mind, sit and listen respectfully."

September 11, 2006 2:05 PM  
Blogger desiree said...

Man, I selfishly wish you updated 4 times a day. Your pieces always amuse me to no end. I hated college for all the reasons you go over, but you know what? When I transferred in as a Junior I took the new student orientation and it was very usefull later in my college career. And I was all over 21 and stuff, so I really was growed up.

September 11, 2006 5:11 PM  
Blogger Tense Teacher said...

I, like, loved this post, and stuff. True life is indeed stranger (and funnier) than fiction.

September 11, 2006 10:00 PM  
Blogger MizMell said...

Love your writing! It always hits home SO WELL.
I have three children 20,22 & 23. One in college 1400 miles away.
You tell the tale with such accuracy!

September 12, 2006 6:11 AM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...


When we arrived in Colorado recently for our vacation, we drove through Boulder on our way to the national park. We stopped for lunch there and ended up in this hippie-vibe sub shop which was full of (whom I am assuming were) students.

It's sad when you've been out of school (undergrad!) less than 5 years yourself and you already "feel old" - which I like totally did.

September 12, 2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Fraulein N said...

I am so damn old. Somebody get me a walker.

What? No, I don't need you to like, carry me around and stuff. The walker will be fine.

September 12, 2006 8:05 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

My top-notch My nearly ivy-league My crap Cal State University didn't seem to offer any such course. This may explain why the tiny little fresh-persons coming in don't know ANYTHING and said incredible knowledge base carries with them for years. One of my favorite professors, when a student speaks, ignores the content and instead counts the number of "like"'s the student says. He then points that out. I love it. Others, like, don't get it and stuff.

I think the overuse of "and stuff" is great (and stuff). It's, like, so cool and stuff to be able to sit in a classroom full of, like, "college educated" people and, like, um, have an intelligent sounding, like, conversation and stuff. It's like, um, so cool!

Especially when I speak to my professors about, like, my grad school applications and stuff I make sure to NOT use any of those speech fillers so they'll write me a better, like, letter of recommendation (...and stuff).

September 12, 2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

I had a friend who got out of freshman orientation, and while I had the option to get out I decided to do it. Turns out for the rest of the school year everything was grouped by orientation class, including dorm arrangements, so she was a little left out. Um...that really has no point other than to say TAKE ORIENTATION, which you already knew. So...okay.

September 12, 2006 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

What is UP with the 10 year olds on the cell phones? I can see if they are trading stocks and making their parents rich so they can retire early and travel the world, but sadly, they are not.
FF might end up like one of THOSE freshmen who, like, fail. I say, give'em enough rope, they hang themselves.

September 12, 2006 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Julie said...

Dang, you are so hilarious! I can't wait to see how your semester unfolds. And I'm looking forward to Part V in the husband series too...

September 12, 2006 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Moobs said...

Ah this brings me back. I was always amazed at the effort people would make to avoid attending courses. It would often have taken much less energyjust to turn up.

September 13, 2006 10:14 AM  
Blogger Miss Britt said...

A friend of my FIRST GRADER came over the other day, with a cell phone.

My son asked me why he doesn't have a cell phone. I told him it was because we were good parents and there was no way he would ever be somewhere that he would need to call me from a cell phone.

September 13, 2006 10:40 AM  

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