Around the autumn report card season teachers and students are presented with the mutually doleful task of assessing one another. The former sometimes find themselves faced with parents, overbearing or irate, and the latter with a raw sheet of paper printed with assorted means of demarcating progress and personality. Whenever grades and scales are used we learn to beware of their simplicity. One phrase, a pleasure to have in class, occurs on report cards as a way to check off institutional compliance to remain within the confines of a desk and an ability to maintain impulse control within socialized class discussions.
Even kids who barely said a word would receive this verbiage on their report card. It was almost as though silence was the most pleasurable thing a kid could do for their adults. Like goldfish, who this Fly on the Wall adored during his elementary school years, and who he would often, then unproblematically—although who knows what busy-body would find a place for it on the spectrum now—eat his lunch with. We didn’t share the fish tank, however, much youthful existence can feel like being in a fishbowl. And then, lunch complete, I’d go outside and play football with my classmates. Go figure.
Consistency between divergent social realms and between academia and discourse is a constant bugaboo for we at AU. Or it can be. After all, hasn’t education since the days of Alexandria and Athens been about gathering in togas or suits, Harry Potter wands or cloth knapsacks, and engaging in focused social interactions? And shouldn’t that be a pleasurable experience for those eager to learn, to lap up all that the authority figures in their brick-and-mortar cages, er ivory towers (Hold the scissors, Rapunzel!), has to offer? If nowhere else in life, at AU we can focus on learning rather than getting along with others.
As adult students we are past normal college student ages (in many cases) and the winding paths of our individual lives and life choices have deposited us in a very different ontological place than others of our cohort. Our being, the nature of who and what and how we are, is summarized by this term: ontology. And it can divide us from peers simply by the perceived pretentiousness of its usage.
Deploying other terms, with vulgar if not derogatory connotations, we can easily seem unpleasurable to others. Arrogant even. Contrary to what snide co-workers, leering teachers, or society as a whole may wish to say about us, we at AU inhabit a school system that is individual as well as collective. The AU Auroras, my choice for sports team name, will likely never field a literal team in any sport. But Athabasca does have a real logo and great gear to purchase and wear proudly if you check out the website. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves even if its literal manifestation is ephemeral. And, recalling the classically gleeful Beach Boys tune, it behooves us to be true to our school to maintain self-respect. Ironically, the song lyrics remind us that whether a student or a philistine or both, there will always be others who are no pleasure to be around.
“When some loud braggart tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
“Now what’s the matter buddy
Ain’t you heard of my school
It’s number one in the state” (Beach Boys, online).
To be proud of our education is to know that we control how classy we are in class; after all, during distance education we ARE the class!