A former student came by yesterday to tell me that she's been accepted into graduate school for the fall. For a community college instructor, this is roughly equivalent to winning the Nobel Prize. My initial excitement was only slightly tempered when she told me that she's decided to enroll in a graduate program in history, not English. While I wasn't really disappointed, I was curious, so I asked her about her decision. I knew that she had left HHCC a couple of years ago to major in English at Humble State University (not to be confused with Humboldt State U) and had then transferred to Slightly Less Humble State University, where she plans to graduate in May. She told me that she had grown disenchanted with the study of English, mainly due to her experiences at SLHSU.
"What happened?" I asked.
She paused. "Well," she began with obvious trepidation, "I really enjoy literature. But at SLHSU it seemed like they weren't particularly interested in teaching literature. They were really teaching...I don't know...philosophy, I guess."
I smiled. "You mean theory, right?"
She was clearly relieved that I knew what she was talking about. "Ohmigosh," she said, "we spent an entire semester reading Barthes." She looked like she was in physical pain remembering it, and I tried to look as sympathetic as I could.
"I'm sorry," I said with real conviction.
"And it seemed like the professors were biased against me because I had transferred from HHCC and HSU. One of them, in fact, when he found out, said, 'Well, I guess we'll just have to reteach you everything.'" It got to where I was afraid to wear my HSU sweatshirt to class."
"Well," I said, grasping for some comforting words, "it takes all kinds..." Somewhat less profound than I was hoping for.
"Anyway," she sighed, "I don't think I ever want to study English again. The people in the History department were a lot nicer, and I can at least understand what they're talking about."
So it looks like our field is healthy and in the good hands of the caring, competent professionals who are its appointed stewards.
Good work, everyone.