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September 07, 1978 - Image 24

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-09-07

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Page 24-Thursday, September 7, 1978-The Michigan Daily

No breath wasted here,
but silence hardly golden

By BRIAN BLANCHARD
We met several times a week in a
'small Mason Hall classroom
overlooking the snow-covered Diag to
mull over nothing less than the entire
second half of Europe's history. Steve,
our TA, would begin by lighting a
,cigarette, then draw his hiking boots up
underneath his wooden chair before
leaning into his work: a series of ill-
fated attempts to inspire us - a dozen
6r so first and second-year students -
to "sort of consider the Industrial
Revolution" out loud and "kind of think
for a minute about World'War I" for the
purpose of discussion.
Steve, it soon became apparent, saw
juimself as a sounding board for em-
bryonic theories, a moderator for ar-
dent debate over society and politics in
the Old World. After carefully reading
the assigned pages and sitting in on the
sweeping lectures delivered in the
Modern Languages Building by our
professor, we were to come to
'discussion sessions ready to articulate
dur opinions and questions.
BUT THINGS rarely worked out that
way. Those who have had to sit through
a typical high school English class have
"seen the weary expressions worn by

get our thoughts off the snowy Diag and
onto the course material.
HE GAVE IT the proverbial college
try: asking a provocative question at
the outset ("I mean, why would the
Jews put up with it after the first signs
of danger?"); or presenting a theory
from lecture or an author ("When does
Modern, like, become Contemporary
History?"); occasionally he would toss
out one of his own ideas ("Could
Fascism, I wonder, resurface today as
a government?"); a degree of success
met a few attempts to bring us into the
issue ("This is just really incredibly
important, the Industrial Revolution.
How many of you have worked for an
auto company?"); finally,.he would of-
ten retreat to the pages we were to have
perused ("Sort of flip to page 124 and
kind of see what he says about it.")
Steve was stuck teaching an un-
manageable amount of material to too
many freshpeople. But his difficulties
in getting us to respond, even to the,
most general questions - anything
more pointed directly threatened to ex-
pose our ignorance - weren't, in my
experience, unique.,
A few floors above Steve's room, for
example, in a course placed a half
dozen centuries earlier, Howie had

period or concept, always a king to take
to task or a revolutionary movement
with which to sympathize. But what
was my poor Great Books professor to
do when it became clear that no one in
the class had a clue as to the intentions
of Herodotus and Homer?
The good professor would begin every
class period with the announcement
that we would have to start discussing
the ideas among ourselves if we wanted
to learn anything. We tried. He even
took a seat with us to encourage open-
ness. But by the end of the first half-
hour, he would be back up at the front of
the room. Then, after rooting himself in
front of the chalkboard, he would resign
himself to talk on the nuances of Greek
philsophy and the importance of
libations in ancient Athens. A beaten
man.
NONETHELESS, at one point I
stumbled upon a professor who was
able to collect his wits and rely on years
,of Mason Hall experience to make sure
that my three-times-a-week poetry
classes didn't degenerate into ex-
cruciating monologues. He didn't
always make things easy ("Can anyone
figure out what my favorite line in this
poem is?"), but he had a talent for put-
ting us at ease and asking enough set-
up, sure-fire questions that, if nothing
else, eventually shamed us into piping
up once in a while.
Even before enough class sessions
have been held for students toestablish
regular seats, some classrooms have
developed a tradition that seems to
deaden conversation. The sticky feeling
- not at all like the comic hush that
falls over a beginning language class
when no one quite remembers how to
respond to a "Wer sind Sie?" or
"Comment allez-vous?" - can grow in-
to a lasting inhibition, worn into the
desk tops along with the doodles and
graffiti.
I can think of only one situation which
might be a more common, contribution
to truancy on campus than the
sometime participatory paralysis. I
refer, of course, to the class in which
somenyoung sage is determined to score
seven major concepts and three
striking comparisons per hour. One of
these classes is to be avoided like
Bursley mashed potatoes.

University Junior Evan Witt fails to communicate in class-a common occurrence.
Calling time-out for Morocco,
cowboys and cutting strings

. a sort of paralysis plagues parts of this campus. The
.ajority of the students don't seem too frustrated by an
apparent inability to raise their hands and say something
-anything-that might contribute to classroom discussion.
_ta

achers and students subjected to en-
ess sessions in which, for some reason
another, no one seemed to have
ich to say. But, I had picked up the
ipression somewhere that my
assmates at the University would be
ing with one another for attention,
ick with upraised hands below which
ey would sit ready to deliver answers
eane from hours of textual analysis.
Alas, I have discovered that a sort of
ralysis plagues parts of this campus.
e majority of the students don't seem
> frustrated by an apparent inability
raise their hands and say something
anything - that might contribute to
issroom discussion.
PA Steve sensed that he couldn't
.nt on initiative from our quarter and
ed a varied approach in his efforts to

similar problems directing discussion
relating to the first half of Europe's
history, despite a more demanding at-
titude.
HOWIE NEVER wore jeans and even
gave a quiz or two right off the bat, so
we were ready to scurry through notes
and books in dramatic last-minute
research efforts when he started asking
questions like: "What is Latifundium?"
Though Howie usually had his terms
defined within the hour allocated for
our, meetings, there were the same
number of confused silences and heavy
pauses at crucial moments as there
were to be during Steve's meetings.
But neither Steve nor Howie can ever
know the utter immobility of a stalled
English class. In history, it seems
there's always another approach to a

Brian Blanchard is a Daily night
editor majoring in English.

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By RENE BECKER
When I was in what I once considered-
to be the prime years of life, I was
preoccupied with one goal-to be
somewhere else. It didn't matter
where, just a place with a road in and a
road out. But parents, especially
mothers, seem to spend most of their
time spinning strings around their
children as they grow-making sure the
child will not move too far too fast.
By adolescence, the parents' web is
as thick and taut as it will ever be. So
what do you do? You move through high
school oblivious to instruction and
classmates, formulating fantastic ad-
ventures in those faraway places
you've never known. You spend late
nights poring over maps planning ex-
peditions to places just the other side of
Baggs, Wyoming where cowboys still
ride horses and a buffalo occasionally
roams. But I didn't just want td visit the
cowboys, I wanted to be one-at least
for awhile.
SOMEWHERE ALONG the line you
learn to cut those strings.
In 1968, when I was 15 years old, I
read about a colony of American hip-
pies living in Morocco. The article said
it was sunny there almost all the time,
you didn't need much money and dope
was $5 a pound. What more could I ask
for? I would steal away to Marakesh for
the summer. But saying and doing are
different things. After all, newspaper-
boys don't usually vacation in North
Africa. Everything I owned went up for
sale-baseball mitts, a half completed
coin collection (a failure from the first
anyway), a baseball autographed by
the Chicago White Sox-everything.
My parents never suspected my plans
until my passport arrived in the mail.
My parents chose, wisely, not to do
anything. Rather, they let finances dic-
tate my future. A week before my
scheduled departure, with nothing
more to sell or borrow, I came to the
terrible realization that once in Morocco,
I wouldn't have any money to live on. I
may have been adventurous but not
dumb. With little or no training in the
art of basic human survival, I was for-
ced to back down.

But that summer I did receive my fir-
st lesson in survival.
AS SOMETHING of a consolation my
parents allowed me to hit the road that.
summer with only ten dollars to my
name. Their stipulations were that I
could not leave the state, I could not ask
them for more money and I had to call
my mother frequently.. They thought I
would return in a matter of days and
that would be that.
To their dismay it wasn't. I was gone
most of the summer and returned with
$15 in my pocket. With one sweeping
slash I had managed to cut a healthy
number of strings. I was happy. My
parents were worried.
But parents everywhere were more
than a little concerned about the youth
of America at that time. The Woodstock
Nation had been born, the anti-war
movement was in full swing and formal
education was being pushed and
dragged through drastic changes. The
roads were crowded with long-haired
hippies looking for something called
America. The feeling of being lost and
confused was widespread espelcially
among those eligible for the draft.
BY THE TIME I was of college age,
things were a little edgy at home. Like
most parents, my mother and father
had determined that the only way to get
ahead in the world was with a- college
degree. They were concerned that I
didn't share their conviction.
I can't remember a day in my high
school career that I didn't hear: "If you
don't go to college right after high
school you'll never go." My parents
predicted that I would probably get a
job if I didn't go to college and would be
reluctant to give up the short range
financial benefits for long-term finan-
cial security-my father was a banker.
They also argued that I would be
lonely. "Your friends will go on without
you, and as the years go by, you will
feel more reluctant to try to catch up.
You won't want to mix with those
.younger than yourself." They promised
that once I had a college background I
could travel anywhere and do whatever
I wanted-"but college first."
I thought about their advice a lot. All
I had seen and done made me doubt
their story. But could my parents lie.?
Yes. To stop me from moving to
Colorado when I was seventeen my
mother told me she had a terminal
illness. She said I might not ever see
her again if I left. She asked me not to
leave. A request I couldn't refuse.
IT WAS THAT episode which almost
convinced me not to go to college. But I
realized that although sometimesI

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misdirected, parental love is strong and
they have my best interest at heart.
They had been there and back, or so
they would say, although I always felt
they had never been where I wanted to
go. I went to college. Paris would wait.
My first term in school was bearable.
But by the end of the second term I was
totally disenchanted with higher
education. Again the parental confron-
tation. "If you leave school you'll never
go back. Your friends will go on without
you-they will graduate. You won'
want to go back to school-everyon
will be younger than you. You would be
an outsider."
But those friends who, during high
school, had detested their parents life
style and vowed "never to be like my
father," seemed well on the: way to
taking over the family business. They
would be accountants and lawyers. I
blamed college for the change in their
tune. I wanted to learn but college
seemed corrupt.
MOST IMPORTANT at that time ws
my need for adventure..I had finall
reached the point where I could cut all
ties with my parents and friends. I still
wanted to be a cowboy or a truck driver
or just a vagabond. There were a lot of
places to see, new people to meet, ,a
completely new life to live everyday.
Since I can remember, in whatever)I
read or heard, acknowledged wise men
talked about youth-the best years of
life. I didn't want to waste it. I didn't
want to look back at age forty and say, I
should have done this or that. I wanted
to say I had done it all and have no
regrets.
Leaving school was a little difficult
for the parents to handle and
sometimes a little tough for me. School
is an artificial environment, clean and
protected. The real world can be dirty
and offensive. It's easy to look like a
fool. But it was mostly enjoyable and
profitable, although not financially.)I
hitched out east often, picking up odd
jobs along the way. I was a migrant
worker, a general handy-man, an oc-
casional saloon musician, a factory
worker, an anti-war protester-any-
thing that sounded interesting.
I HAD A FEW serious jobs. I was ?a
computer operator in a bank, I started
a wholesale lobster company (a worthy
enterprise which failed due to a crooked
partner-a valuable lesson); and I was
a jet refueler for an airlines.
And I travelled, by thumb, foot, bus,
train and plane. I like to think I know
San Francisco and Manhattan as well
as I know my home town-Detroit. I've
been to Europe several times but I
never did get to Morocco.
When I decided to come back to
school it wasn't because I was tired of
being a vagabond, and not because I
wanted a degree. Rather, I returned for
an education. Not necessarily a. college
education, but a learning experience.
JUST LIKE ANY adventure down.a
dusty road a university can provide the
opportunity to hone your own instincts,
to sharpen your perception. I was
wrong to think that college, by nature,
was a corrupting influence.
What I gained from my extended
semester break was a different per-
spective. I'm perhaps more cynical. I
question more. I learn more.
My parents' predictions never came
true. Tue campus is loaded with studen-
ts over twenty, I don't feel out of place
and those younger than I don't seem
bothered. My old friends are still frien-
ds although married and with children.
We are somewhat distant, but that

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