After I have practically pinched, poked and prodded myself into a stupor, finally one still small voice off in the corner of the room (in response to my question what does being lazy feel like) says, “It’s like you just don’t want to.” That’s all it takes. An honest voice can cut through a ton of bullshit. I not only know what that means, I can feel it. I just don’t want to because it bores me and makes me feel stupid and I can see no purpose for doing it in the first place and it’s not that I have better things to do or places to go or people to meet. I just don’t want to do it. And when I do it I feel like I am walking knee deep in molasses straight into a swamp which potentially has no end.
I just don’t want to do it.
That’s what concerns me. That many students just don’t want to do it. Don’t want, I mean, to be in college or to go to stupid lectures or write dumb papers on stuff they know little or nothing about and would prefer to go on nothing little or nothing about.
I tumbled to this some time in the late 80s. I volunteered to spend an hour with groups of incoming freshmen as they cycle through campus during orientation. I would meet with 20 of them in some overheated dorm area, and they would be completely worn out from having spent the day trying to figure out how to enroll in classes.
I tried to be entertaining and made up one of my surveys asking them such things as why they had decided to come to college a) to get a job b) to get a career c) to meet your mate and so on and so forth with a list of about everything I could think of. Then we would walk through the list and make jokes about things like trying to find a mate or maybe get a little discussion going about the difference between a career and a job and what that might be.
But one time no sooner had I handed out the survey, than one guy in the back raised his hand and said he didn’t understand these questions at all. I wondered if he could be more specific. Well, he said, these questions seemed to imply—all of them–that they had made decisions about going to college for this or that specific reason. And he continued, that wasn’t the case. They were there because they were supposed to be there; not because they had decided to be there. They had been raised to be there and were there because everybody they knew was there.
So I said, you think most of the people in this room have been set up to go to college from such an early age that they have never even thought about why they are going or about not going. Something like that, he said. Well, if that’s true, I blame the Cosby Show. Do you remember that show? Every time the head idiot would wear a new sweat shirt with the name of another college on it. He was like a public service announcements for colleges everywhere. So I blamed Cosby. Everything and everybody on that show was so damned cute that Cosby ought to be ashamed of himself; putting that freaking ass delusion forward as something to aspire to. Talk about your crappy role model.
I bumped into the kid outside and asked him what he planned to do. He didn’t know. His father was a lawyer and his mother was a teacher, and they both hated their work. That’s a bitch, I said. You bet, he said.