August 29, 2009 8:17:00 PM
My recurring dream has been recurring.
Surprisingly, I''ve found that it''s a pretty common dream, a fact that gives me some comfort as to the state of my mental health.
There are three variations all centered around my college days: I can''t find my classroom; have lost my class schedule; or a professor drops a three-page final exam on my desk that I have not prepared for and have no hope of passing.
It goes on and on all night. Fortunately for me, my subconscious knows how I hate re-runs; therefore, the "director" offers different twists -- professors, schedules and location settings.
Deadlines, business downturns, family issues and maintenance problems -- be it cars, appliances or the house in general -- trigger the dream and project it on my mind''s silver screen. (I dream in technicolor.)
Keep it to yourself about sweating the small stuff -- it''s not all small stuff. The sure-fire, can''t-miss crisis that produces a full-length feature is when I have to come up with the cash to pay the kids'' college tuition. I''m sure I have a new dream being shot right now by my mind''s film company.
After opening a bill for tuition for one of my brood''s fifth year in college, I find that I don''t "have the dough to put on a show" as blues legend Luke Jordan once sang. In my mind, I spend the rest of the night digging holes in the backyard searching for the can I buried.
Tell us straight
Over the last few months I''ve had the opportunity to hear some meaningful and well thought-out programs presented by some of the higher-ups in the world of academia at the college level.
To be brutally honest, they have left me feeling that they don''t "feel me" -- a cash-strapped parent struggling to pay for his kid''s college education.
Some of you other civic clubbers who have heard some of these presentations might agree that very little time is spent touting their efforts to place graduates, or sharing how many found employment in their fields of study and starting salaries for their graduates as compared to other like institutions. These are just your plain old run-of-the-mill measurements of how they stack up against others in what they all describe as a very competitive market.
Instead, it''s more about securing research grants, maintaining infrastructure, capital improvements, pay raises for staff and finally, the nightmare of nightmares for us parents who drive used cars and shop for our clothes at the Walmart, tuition increases. It''s all about money.
Parents like me who are footing the bill for their kid''s college, students working to pay their own way (the best students, in my opinion), and those who are piling student loan on top of student loan don''t lose a whole lot of sleep fretting over administrators'' concerns, with the exception of tuition increases.
We are more concerned about our grads securing good-paying jobs in their fields of study, with the mother of all benefits -- health insurance.
With the exception of doctors, accountants, engineers, actuaries, scientists, agriculturists and rocket scientists (I know I left some out), most of us out in the working world don''t need much more than excellent reading skills, social skills (working with a team), ability to reason (average IQ), mathematical skills (think the difficulty level of Algebra I that we 50ish folks had back in the day), a good grasp of the English language (that''s vocabulary and grammar) and the writing skills necessary to draft a document, memo or letter that explains how to accomplish a task in a logical sequence.
I''ve been through a lot of corporate skill assessments in one of my past lives. I never had a problem or exercise thrown my way that a good grasp of the skills just listed couldn''t solve satisfactorily.
Why so long?
With the exception of guitar players and pool players like me, most guys and gals that I knew easily completed their degree in four years back in my days at Delta State.
We have let education get out of control. The five-year plan, with a summer semester or two thrown in, is now the norm.
The good Lord only knows how long it takes kids like me these days.
I would like the college hierarchy to come with a new message to civic clubs, church groups and sewing circles. I''d stand and cheer for the college presidents who came to report how they had put all their advanced degrees to work streamlining college curriculums -- fast tracking for those that don''t need the fluff.
In my plain-old-guy-from-Rolling Fork way of thinking, we have a gold-plated system that''s gotten bogged down in minutia.
What we need are innovative leaders to construct programs that deliver quality (and I mean the best) education at far less cost. Take the five-year plan, cut it to three (no summer school; kid''s got to work to help out old Dad).
What''s in it for the colleges? A three-year program would certainly take care of a lot of the money issues that they all complain about.
Don''t think it can be done? Put me in, coach.
I apologize for ranting. I''ve been on the road of late and had way too much windshield time on my hands. I''m obsessing over waste and how we have allowed ourselves to get to where we are now: more cost and less value on just about everything we buy.
None of this made much difference back eons ago (last year) when we had money. We were letting the good times roll The good times have rolled on down the road. We''re going to be forced to come up with new ways of doing things.
But, back to dreams and closing on a more uplifting note.
I get a chuckle from the thought of picking up the phone in a few years and having one of mine say, "Dad, last night I had that dream you wrote about years ago. By the way, thanks for getting someone''s attention on that three-year plan. Your grands are going to get to go to college now, just like us. I don''t know how you ever managed the five-year plan. We love you for it though."
Roger Truesdale, of Columbus, owns and operates Bayou Management Inc. and is a semi-professional guitar player. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.