Re: Simone Carter, "McCollege: As Dallas College Consolidates Its Campuses, Some See Crisis"
Let's just say Dallas College is a college I'm familiar with. And yeah, you want to read every bit of "McCollege: As Dallas College Consolidates Its Campuses, Some See Crisis." Here's one part which not only needs to go viral, but should push everyone in Dallas County to demand better:
Dallas College’s graduation rate is relatively low. According to the Department of Education, 9% of its students earn a diploma there while the national midpoint for two-year schools is 29%. Its graduation rate also falls short of Collin College’s 14%.
If you're wondering how such a low graduation rate is possible, consider the following. A "student success" initiative was implemented that won the former Chancellor a $100,000 bonus. You read that right: a 100k bonus for what ultimately amounts to a 9% graduation rate. There's a lot of corruption in Texas, and like all things Texan, it doesn't hide itself but proclaims its flag should be at the same height as the flag of the United States. It can keep shouting as long as there's no accountability. A theory: you get a 9% graduation rate by not offering courses to the students who need them to graduate. You don't offer those courses because the faculty sees the breach of the public trust. The faculty has to be kept in line and thus has to work in a precarious environment. The way you really abuse employees in America is by threatening their ability to work, which in this case amounts to the ability to offer classes.
Below I've written on a short poem of Emily Dickinson's with which everyone is familiar. I don't know that I have anything new to say about it, but I'm pretty sure my reading has a unique flavor to it:
Emily Dickinson, "If I can stop one heart from breaking" (919)
"If I can stop one heart from breaking..."
Yeah. "[S]top one heart from breaking." Right.
I can't stop my own heartbreak! To be clear, I'm an angry, vain egomaniac. You'd think this could be leveraged into a strength. If I feel hurt, I can distract myself by cursing someone else. I should be able to banish heartbreak! Yet, many things seem workable on paper but are completely unusable in real life. Plans become silly because the words for articulating them don't match what's involved.
"If I can stop one heart from breaking, / I shall not live in vain." I imagine this said through tears or gritted teeth. Dickinson resolves to sublimate rage and disappointment. She's been hurt, but she will prevent at least one other wound of the sort. At least one.
If I can stop one heart from breaking (919) Emily Dickinson If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain; If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.
Her plan is far more beautiful than my approach of gross bullying. Can it work? One complication: awful people who continually lash out may never be happy, but can wield enormous power. It might be that doing nice, pleasant, kind things to bolster others is too weak. There are too many monsters. Maybe one has to embrace viciousness in order to fully understand its absurd strength in our daily lives.
Dickinson refuses to conceive the problem that way. It's not merely dishonorable or undignified, but inhuman. "I shall not live in vain" calls to a necessary aspect of human being, that of living for a purpose. I suppose I should say more about this, as many treat the notion of larger purpose as a luxury. You should only want to have the tools to survive and any other discussion—e.g. wanting to be loved—is worthless. It does not help that knowing how quickly you could lose everything in a country with no social safety net and no sense of community is prudent, not paranoid.
However, this brief lyric cannot address extreme panic or the forces which enable it. Dickinson is practical, not obsessed with sounding practical. She lists what she can do: "If I can ease one life the aching / Or cool one pain, / Or help one fainting robin / Unto his nest again[.]" What she can do progresses in precision. "Cool one pain" is more specific than easing aching, and helping a fainting robin to his nest more specific than either. And, perhaps, she's moving beyond herself, from an interior hurt to aiding another creature entirely.
But there is an element of this remedy for heartbreak which stands out. Assume that the aching and pain were symptoms of being let down by other people. That human love failed humans, in other words. Dickinson turns to aiding animals, to bringing them home, as purpose.
She embraces an animal consciousness. A simpler notion of need and presence, wherein she can know she helps. Human love may be too complex, and this ending gives pause. Can our kind, well-intentioned actions ever build to the love we desire? Or do we have to navigate relationships, where conventionality and arbitrariness underlie every glance, word, and move? You might say the complex can be built from the simple, but that's a matter of faith, not knowledge.