I saw the best minds of new generations destroyed by educrats, stressing, hysterical, testing
Who wandered the halls of academe in half-baked comprehension, looking for an easy A
Who drifted through dingy lecture halls, into seminar rooms with peeling paint, and sat on cracked fiberglass chairs to sleep with one eye open, flickering between the blackboard and a glowing screen
Who essayed nebulous analysis, amorphous, hazy, dim, scribbling through the ambiguous, shapeless, obscure channels of their reasoning, to
turn in vague, chaotic murk in five-paragraph form.
Who cried for practice questions, “give us practice questions!” and used the practice questions to learn to do the practice questions and no other
Who could not, would not, see a pattern, any pattern beyond the cookie cutter application of one technique to one situation.
Who understood only the test, the movement of black dots from bubble heads to bubble sheets, a great, wide, vast Skinnerian conditioning experiment, and learned which buttons to press to release the reward pellet, that small, dry kibble of grades accumulated for participation, for rough drafts, for worksheets, for giving the prof what he wants
Who took out loans and hocked their souls to Moloch, Moloch in student aid, Moloch in the banks, Moloch of tuition and loans
Who learned to use the only power they had, the power of the consumer, the power of the customer, secure in the warm blanket of the customer’s God-granted always-rightness
Who threatened the beast in its life-blood, in the flow of the almighty dollar from the loan office to the tuition coffer, pausing only briefly along the way at the Apple Store and Starbucks for a skinny latte
Who gave feedback and evaluations with the inchoate sense of loss, of disappointment, of something somehow having failed them, and lashed out at the nearest convenient target - the only target visible through the glare of a thousand smartphone screens
Who came face to face with standards, with failure, with difficulty and challenge, and balked and quailed at their own human ordinariness, and looked back longingly at carefree days of sheltered gradeschool, where mere sentience had garnered them accolades and trophies
Who fell back horrified before the soaring pinnacles of knowledge yet unknown to them, its ocean breadth and boundless depth, the accumulation of lifetimes to a store of wisdom, understanding, reason, daring them in their puny youth to master even a corner of it.
Who retreated into stress, into OCD and depression, and sought refuge in the reruns on TVtropolis, and its illusory safe harbor away from deadlines, papers, and tests
Who passed anyway, and graduated and crossed a stage and were forgotten with the rest
Who wandered forth into the maw of the beast, of Moloch, holding their sheepskins before them as talismanic shields, sadder but no wiser, poorer but no richer, seeking to redeem the false promise of the middle class, mistaking their grades for knowledge, and falling, falling at the feet of the beast.