Today was a bad day. If it weren’t for the wonderfulness of my friends it could have been much worse.
To make a long story short, I’m doing badly in my classes. The early morning Japanese classes have me overwhelmed, and the afternoon classes have me underwhelmed. It’s a dangerous concoction of low self-esteem, stress (I really really need that scholarship) and (from the evening section) topics that don’t pique my interest. So my body does always does in these situations–fall asleep. I don’t mean to- I try very hard to pay attention, stay awake, make the topic more interesting for myself- but despite it all my mind starts to wander, the room goes fuzzy, and the next thing I know I’m asleep. Which, of course makes the problem worse. It’s happened since middle school, and I’ve never been able to figure out how to remedy it. So my grades have slipped, and now I’m in a bit of trouble in my Japanese writing class.
In the afternoon I went to “Intersection of Fantasy and Real Life in Japanese Fiction,” a class I have serious problems with. I got into a “discussion” with my professor today about the nature of “quality,” and it was pretty draining. Basically, he argued that while there were certain individual likes and dislikes, there is a difference between high and low quality products. Which, on a basic level I agree with. However, I argued that “quality” in itself is a misleading term, because the standard by which you judge things to be of “good quality” or “bad quality”–worthless or valuable– was determined by what someone else once liked and disliked; and if one fails to take that into consideration one can fall into the trap of using the argument of “quality” to promote your own likes and dislikes.
For example, he talked about McDonalds versus Fancy French Food; of how one is of higher quality, but if someone likes McD’s better than that’s their opinion. However, I (was going to–never got it out) argue that how certain foods were determined fancy depended on WHO liked them–if enough of the right type (eg. fancy) of people like your food, the food itself will be considered fancy. That’s not bad per se, but to simply that there is an innate “fancy-level” in food ignores that class, race, sex etc. privileges were inherent in choosing what is and what is not “fancy,” and allows this type of thing to continue. It gives people an excuse to keep the “Old Boy’s Club” intact (e.g. I’m not an ethnocentric bigot, my culture’s just of a superior quality). I’m not sure we understood each other, or if we did and if we just disagreed–but either way I was unhappy with the way it turned out. I wouldn’t have bothered to argue it in the first place, except that I felt uncomfortable with the classicist nature of the discussions we’d been having. (To sum my argument, I felt he was saying: why is it good? It’s of good quality. Why is it of good quality? Because it’s good. I’m asking WHO determines good?) But I never got my argument out (not for lack of effort, but I’d worry about posting why on this blog for fear of grade retaliation–if you have questions about anything though I can email you). Times like this I miss Oberlin… yeah there’s a lot of -ism there too (a lot), but there’s a lot more willingness to a) call someone out on it, and b) to get into theory discussions.
For the record, I usually prefer a nice french onion soup to a McDonald’s 99 cent Cheeseburger. I’m NOT a moral or cultural relativist (although I recognize that it’s a valid and complex argument, I don’t agree with or believe in it). I love reading, analyzing literature, writing–I plan to be a traditionally published writer someday. I’ve taken literature and creative writing classes, I’ve taken a critical thinking class, I’ve taken anthropology classes. I believe that there IS a difference between an informed opinion and an uninformed one, between Kanye and Common, between Twilight and LOTR, I believe in “the medium is the message”–I just also believe in the EA games motto (Challenge Everything), because if you don’t challenge the system, how can you make it better or do anything new?
Long story short, I’m tired of academia. Thinking is great, but academia has a tendency to feast on its own stale air.