Against Misery

Often most upsetting is the yawning divide separating their vision from ours. We use the same words but with different meanings. Action verbs signal progress and movement for us, for them hurdles and obstacles. At heart are basic ideological and philosophical differences. Scanning their presentation slides is often like reading a language beamed in from another planet.

Talking it through with C__ the other day we realized the utter futility of our actions. D__ insists we are winning, will win, and there’s a refreshing humor in his bold refusal to take seriously their diurnal attempts to throw another wrench into our design initiatives, which on the surface at least they have accepted, but even that’s another word whose meaning is up for grabs.

But even if we do ‘win,’ where will that leave us? To win with this regime may be just another form of losing. To survive is to harvest yet another day on a path that leads nowhere. Everything has changed, very basically, as the result of a fundamental shift in purpose. We ride along and do our best to fight the good fight, but now we’re starting to see the fight itself is just another symptom of a disease out of control.

So we settle on our own preferred metaphors — the dark lord, the undead, the plague, the Borg — because we want to isolate an external, archetypal, primeval cause against an otherwise banal landscape of business-as-usual. But the dreaded illness is not out there or down there (downtown) but everywhere, and we in our concerted efforts are also carriers. In short, we want to pretend we can stop change that has already happened. The sun has set and yet here we are trying desperately to spoon the Night back into the void.

Therein lies our miserable condition. But obviously we’re against that. We have different plans and those plans are like the party favors of our foolish, undying optimism. If nothing else we’re putting a lot of TIME (on their dime) into squaring a curricular future for the oblong holes of their whacked out reinvention. Our version of all this may not fit, in the end, but our design choices and practiced maneuverings up against the stultifying crap they’re proffering will at least leave something for the next group to chew on. Hence the ultimate importance of, if nothing else, getting all this on record.

Slip & Slide

We feel the need to get things done, and quickly. Time may not be the enemy, but it is of the essence, and we’re running out.

And yet our working meetings, always launched with the best intentions, keep morphing into strategy sessions required  to fend off the latest volley from downtown. Their goal, as always, is to stave off even the smallest accomplishment, so our work gets swallowed up, disappearing down the maw of institutional inertia.

I guess operational momentum requires that kind of constant slippage — the slow slide (drain) from one day into the next, never really getting anywhere, but always giving the appearance of making enormous strides.

Hence the need on their end to coordinate lots of EVENTS, RETREATS, DISCUSSIONS, and of course never-ending MEETINGS to keep the slide nice and slippery.

And I can’t help but return always to the language. To an emerging glossary of the critically undead, let’s add:

  • educational coherence
  • streamlined requirements (and program streams)
  • reduced redundancy
  • predictable schedules
  • smart offerings

Words in bold are the fuel cells for their off-world battlestar.

There’s nothing like a rhetoric of smart coherence to mask the incoherent short-sightedness of a broad-based dumbing down — because ultimately that’s the goal, to make life easier by reducing and narrowing choices, meanwhile marketing the whole thing as a shift toward ever-greater abundance, as a streamlined path to getting exactly what you want, when you want it.

The Walmartification of higher ed, wherein “Save money. Live better” translates to “Save time. Learn better.”

Slip sliding away.