You know how you shouldn't go to the grocery store when you’re hungry. You’ll find yourself unloading the bags at home asking why on earth you bought three packages of Fig Newtons and seven varieties of Doritos but no toilet paper or bread.
Well, I have a similar rule; don’t write your column when you are angry…
I am now going to break that rule.
How many gentle readers out there have a child in college at this very moment? How many gentle readers out there became less gentle thinking about the process of dealing with colleges? I like to think I am pretty even keeled but I have spent a lot of time with the demeanor of Bruce Banner’s big green friend the last several days, all due to the world of higher education.
Both of my parents, two of my siblings and I all attended the University of Kansas. I look back on many parts of my life in Lawrence with positive nostalgia. I am a huge Jayhawk basketball fan. So, it was natural for my children to approach the university with favorable thoughts. Now, my two daughters are going there this semester. Not only are my daughters going there but large chunks of my once and future earnings will be going there as well. It is ungodly expensive but that is not why I am angry. I knew that part of the deal long before either child was even out of kindergarten.
Now, correct me if I’m wrong. If you pay me I work for you but if I pay you then… You. Work. For. Me. This is the crux of my Hulk smash attitude.
The University of Kansas may have a whole bunch of eggheads working for them. People with advanced degrees in all sorts of intellectual pursuits but they seem not to have learned that basic equation of customer and service.
My children are often treated like employees. Not just any employee but the kind of employee who is on a plan of improvement because he has shown the initiative of a plate of over-cooked noodles and the intellect of the plate upon which the noodles reside. I understand there are expectations for fulfilling requirements like which classes should be taken and then the tasks within said classes. I have no problem with that. That is part of the expected covenant between the parties involved.
Let me give you examples using other employer/employee relationships to illustrate my point.
Let’s say I am the CEO of a Fortune 500 business (I do not have the temperament for such a job but, hey, this is just for the sake of illustrating a point). It is 8 o’clock Sunday evening. I send you an email. It is expected you will be checking your work email at such a time of the weekend. The content of that email requires you to write a two page memo about a segment of the business which was never part of your job description. I pay you so that is acceptable.
Flip to college. My daughter gets an email from an instructor at 8:00 PM Sunday night telling her she has an assignment, an assignment heretofore never mentioned in any class or syllabus, due the following day. Wait a minute, I’m paying you to do a service for me. This ain’t part of the deal.
If I pay you it is acceptable for me to expect a certain level of myopic focus on your part.
Let’s say I am paying you to paint my house. I expect while you are at my house, you paint my house. Not spend time pursuing your hobby of raising parakeets.
Flip to college. My daughter is expected to myopically focus her life on a single aspect of her college experience by her professor. Forego all the other stuff they pounded into her during orientation that she should get involved with a myriad of activities and groups. As well as forego the things which feed her soul between working truly hard on the regular expectations from all of her other courses. Once again, I’m paying you. This ain’t part of the deal.
I still have fond of memories of attending KU. Two of my favorite memories ever are sitting with my father watching KU win the national championship in 1988 and sitting with my daughter watching KU win the national championship in 2008. I have a hope Bill and Young Mr. Wiggins will give us a championship in 2014. But I have to say I no longer bleed crimson and blue. I bleed confused and annoyed.
Christopher Pyle apologizes for venting his spleen all over your nice clean computer screen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org