In honor of this glorious occasion, I might as well post a piece that no student should ever know I wrote. I will qualify this, however, by making it known that I wrote this piece last semester when I really did hate teaching. Somehow this semester, Shannon was blessed by the student fairy and I can sincerely say that there is not one student I have this semester who is a waste of my time. I pretty much look forward to walking into that classroom every single week.
But, regardless of the present, my outright bitterness towards the undergraduate student body last semester sparked what I hope will be a serious piece of academic work at some point in the future. (You know, the point when I can quit focusing on meaningless busywork that does not interest me and only hinders education. In other words, after I graduate.)
Creating Identities out of Shit: Our Newest Generation’s Spin on American Consumer Culture
I came up with the idea for this panel, for this paper, one day while sitting in the 500 person undergraduate lecture for the class I TA for. Staring at the students, just hating them, I thought of the people in other parts of this world, neigh, even in this country, who would give literally anything for an opportunity to attain this level of education. Hell, what they wouldn’t give for one of my undergrad’s generic brand t-shirts. And I watched them, staring at their palms with thumbs going a mile a minute texting—not typing—letters that stood for words in some lame and lazy new symbolic language created by the technology pushers. They were no doubt practicing to write me some nonsensical, misdirected email about a paper assignment that they couldn’t even find because following printed directions that don’t use the letters “c” and “u” in place of the words “see” and “you” are apparently too complicated to follow now. And as I zoned out watching them zone out, a buzz word caught my ear and brought me back to our lecture hall. “Culture” was being discussed. I thought to myself, “how ironic,” but then allowed my cynicism to dissolve so that I could follow my thought pattern racing through cognitive schemata, trying to make meaning of a god term like “culture.” I settled down into a question that sparked my interest: What contribution would the folks in front of me be making to our understanding and conception, and yes, the very essence of what is American culture? And right here it came to me. The title of the paper and theme of this panel. It is deeply interconnected with consumerism at large, but I feel that this next generation will be leaving a fingerprint much more original, precise, and scary than merely a new chapter in the live to shop—or is it shop to live—existence. Theirs, though entrenched in buy, buy, buy (N*SYNC merely had the spelling wrong), splits off into a new direction that not only embraces, but is dependent upon, a seductive intermingling of technology, ignorance, and apathy.
“Creating Identities out of Shit: Our Newest Generation’s Spin on American Consumer Culture”
Did I mention that grad school is killing me?