As if poor people didn’t have problems enough…


… Michelle Obama wants to make ’em go to college.

I have to admit, I can’t stand Michelle and never could. I think I dislike her even more than I dislike her husband. He seems to me like a glib con-artist of a familiar type; he can be engaging when he wants to, though his more Presidential manner — sanctimonious, didactic, in a word, Wilsonian — is extremely repellent. But at bottom, he runs on jive, and that’s not the worst type of human character. One has known plenty of jivers, and they’re more fun to be around than your average professor(*).

But Michelle … Michelle really seems convinced of her own righteousness, her own deservingness; of the credit entirely due to her for her own undoubted, blazing success. This note of self-congratulation, mixed with censure for everybody else, booms like a basso ostinato through a recent talking-to she gave to a hapless captive audience of Washington teenagers, at a facility oddly called the Bell Multicultural High School (as opposed to a monocultural high school?).

Note her admonitory, accusing finger, always a dead giveaway:

michelle obama

Here’s a sample of her treacle-and-brimstone style:

I’m here today because I want you to know that my story can be your story…The details might be a little different, but so many of the challenges and triumphs will be just the same….

I couldn’t afford to go on a bunch of college visits, I couldn’t hire a personal tutor. I couldn’t enroll in SAT prep classes. We didn’t have the money.

… Some of my teachers straight-up told me that I was setting my sights too high,” she continued. “They told me I was never going to get into a school like Princeton…. [Once there,] There were times when I felt that I could barely keep my head above water.

She terrorized her audience with the usual dismal forecasts: by 2050 a PhD will be required to run a cash register at Wal-Mart, etc. etc.

My story can be your story. Every one of those kids at the Bell Multicultural Indoctrination And Prison Prep Center can, and should, come to live in the White House. All at the same time, in fact, having all graduated from Princeton in the same class and with the same GPA, all tied for valedictorian.

No doubt she’s right that credential creep will continue; it creates a considerable wealth transfer to the credentialling sector, after all, which is now an important industry, though it sells a very mediocre product. But it is surely obvious to the meanest intellect that although anybody can get on a bus — or, judging by some recent tenants, into the White House — everybody cannot get on a bus. A bus isn’t big enough for everybody. Not even the White House is that big.

So Michelle’s message, correctly generalized, is that you will have to work ever harder, and spend ever more time in one pedagogical feedlot after another, if you want to be declassed a bit less rapidly than your less compliant or energetic schoolfellows. We’re going to shaft you all, she’s saying; but some of you are going to get shafted worse than others; and you’d better get that nose to the grindstone, and burn that midnight oil, if you prefer the slightly smaller shaft.

(*) Of course there are exceptions. I’ve known plenty of likable professors too. Though none of them were law school, or “Political Science”.

31 thoughts on “As if poor people didn’t have problems enough…

  1. Indeed! Although I think that my dislike of the two is pretty equal. He is always talking about “you folks.” God, I can’t stand that. But you are right about the First Lady. And most people give her a pass. That fucking garden was enough for me.

    I can hear myself giving a speech to these kids, right after Michelle: “The first two houses I lived in had no indoor plumbing and the first one had no hot water. Coal waste could be seen from the front door. What small successes I have had have been wholly due to luck and the hard work of many other people. Today, nobody really gives a shit about you. Narcissism and consumption rule. So what you have to look forward to is either a life of stupidity and exploiting others (if you somehow manage, by hook or by crook, to “succeed”) or a downward drift toward the outhouse and the cold water flat. Unless, that is, we all revolt, put the Obamas in reeducation camps along with every damned one of their monied accomplices (we’ll have to put you in one too if you follow in Michelle Obama’s footsteps). Quite a few will have to be tried for crimes against humanity and hopefully dealt with in an appropriate manner, akin to how they have treated most of humanity. Now, on three, let’s start our revolt here, by taking over this school, evacuating everybody from it, and then blowing it up. From now on, we will teach one another.”

    • I suspect lady Bama
      May have a certain distance from her
      Carefully built public self icon

      She sees herself as projecting
      A rising possibility to underdogs

      She liked to sit on her daddy’s lap and rub his head
      How bad can she be

      As far as blowing the schools to hell

      I’m with ya there at least after grade 8

      GPCR amerikan style

    • That’s image I’ll always have, having seen her, years ago already, on MSDLC promoting her De-Fatten the Fat Little Bastards program–as every first lady has to got a program–and with intense motherly sincerity point out how fat kids won’t be fit for to defend the nation. Well, then.

    • Y’know, I never thought I’d see a First Lady’s Pet Project anywhere near as loathsome as Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No Club until Michelle Obummer came along and decided that, with all the important issues that needed addressing, the issue she should concentrate on is Fat Kids.

      Out of all the First Ladies’ Pet Projects I can think of, the only one that had any actual real, lasting positive impact was Lady Bird’s beautification project. Everything else was just bored First Ladies playing “Can You Top This”.

      • There’s some Redwoods alive in California thanks to Lady Bird. A grove is named after her.

        At least a few have been spared the logger’s axe. And that’s coming from the son of a logger and mill worker.

  2. Fuck, it sure is a slippery slope! And with my imagination I start to see not just degrees becoming devalued, but people actually learning for the simple joy of learning without considering the impact it will have on their ability to move up within a company, professions passed on through experience rather than in rooms as distanced from the from the actual activities involved as Mars, and everyone getting everything they need just because.

    • Yes, and if I hear one more person tell me how they need to make sure their kids are “prepared” so that they can “compete”…

      A good friend, a humorist of some note here in NYC, told me his approach to his kids’ education has always been “eyes OFF the prize.” Now, ironically, and perhaps deliciously, his son followed this approach and ended up doing quite well at Yale. I say deliciously, because I think of all of the parents who drove their kids insane keeping their eyes ON that sort of Ivy League prize, and falling short! Schadenfreude, I suppose. But I am doing my best to take the eyes OFF the prize with my young’un.

  3. It’s posts like this and the comments that always keep me coming back to read. Great stuff.
    My youngest son just started is going to Portland State University and we were talking and he said he was thinking about a business major. I nearly spewed my coffee. I said “I thought you were going to keep learning music and get try out for the concert band.” He says, “I’m worried I won’t be able to find a job when I get out of school.” I say to him “I don’t care what major you take you’re not gonna find a job when you get out of school anyway, at least not in your field of study. Look at your two older brothers, they’ve both got degrees and neither one of them works in a job in any way related to their university studies. So screw it, learn music. It’s what you enjoy. You’ll end up getting the same sorts of jobs the MBA jokers get and at least you’ll learn something nice and get a real education.”

    I’ve got him convinced…

      • PSU has a great music program. My son attended a Jazz workshop there last summer and got a lot out of it. But you have a good point Boink… wow, that rhymes. (LOL) Every individual case needs to be taken on its own and skepticism about the university system is entirely justified. As our host has pointed out so well

      • Oh, one other thing Boink, he’s entered the job market while going to school. Like my other sons he’s found out it completely sucks these days. At least my oldest boy is doing something near what he likes. He works on a sheep farm out in eastern Oregon in La Grande. God’s own country if I might say so myself. Anyone who hasn’t hiked the Eagle Cap wilderness has missed out. Just my ever so humble opinion. OK, I’m lying my opinions are no where near humble. But still.

          • Don’t congratulate me! He’s hated me since long before I divorced his daughter and even more since then. But my sons have been fortunate and lucky and I’ve made sure they know it.

  4. College can be a lot of fun — it certainly was for me — if you’re adamantly determined to follow your own nose and take no thought for the morrow. Study something completely useless, as I did. You’ll never regret it — unless you borrow money to finance it, which is *not* a good idea.

  5. (Insert my standard reply about how I agree with Fadduh Smiff about the credentialiing racket, but that four years of university-level art/design training did me a world of good HERE)

    Yeah, I got me four years of fun, too — and I don’t just mean the beer, weed, and crazy hippie chicks and drawing-class models. Seeing as how I was studying art and design, that also meant four years of fun in class as well, for the most part (my crafts and sculpture classes weren’t exactly my strongest).

    Sadly, my family had to take out loans (and I signed up for a work-study program where I served as various art professors’ studio/office assistant) because our famiy was too middle-class — too rich to qualify for many grants, not rich enough for Mom’n’Dad to just scratch out the checks. Of course, this was in the mid/late ’70s, when the cost of going to college hadn’t yet done its Saturn V imitation (that is, blasted off to the Moon).

    I’d still recommend any kids aspiring to become fine artists — or graphic designers — to get themselves four years of college-level training if at all possible, because learning color theory, composition, typography, and how to handle media from a competent teacher is way easier than trying to learn all that stuff on your own, and also because being an art student is much more fun than “normal” college.

  6. But, aaaaaaanyway, on the subject of Our Glorious Leader’s Woman…

    Yeah, she also annoyed the hell out of me from the first moment I encountered her on TV, early in the ’08 campaign. I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by the cover and all, but even on TV or magazine covers, I couldn’t help sensing a cold and vaguely nasty junior-high principal vibe just oozing out of her. Plain and unremarkable, seemingly interchangeable with any of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters at my college (I don’t know if Madame O was AKA, but I wouldn’t be surprised; she certainly has that same kind of my-shit-don’t-stink attitude), full of finger-wagging lectures about how people aren’t working hard enough. Every time I see her — even when smiling — she seems to have this mean, pissed-off look permanently stuck on her face. In fact, I read some time back that she travels with a personal make-up artist whose top job is to try and make her up so she doesn’t look so mean.

    I think what really bugs me about her is that she comes off with a personality that’s ice-cold and dry as a popcorn fart. She’s like Hillary Clinton without the soul.

  7. Comrades, I’ve been meaning to weigh in on this topic for a few days but other urgent tasks took the best of me.

    Regarding Michelle, well, she might be as mean spirited and useless as Hillary but at least she’s not running for office and her public life persona is limited to “just say no to food” kind of bullshit.

    As for the debate on to go or not to go to college, I think the comrades ought to differentiate between the racket that the college tuition has become and the value of a college education in itself. I can speak from my own experience of pushing my daughter to go to college. She was never academically inclined and all throughout her high school years, she was completely uninterested in the world around her. During her last year in high school, she became mildly interested in the humanities and so I encouraged her to major in sociology. Luckily by then, we had discovered Montreal where the college tuitions are incredibly reasonable. She got into one of the big anglo schools in Montreal, which cost us pretty much the same as a state school in California because she was an American. A few years later when we got our residency, her tuition dropped substantially to something like $1200 a semester. She did end up learning about things that she would have never initiated to learn on her own. Yes, things that old farts like us take for granted and assume that everyone would be interested in. She finally graduated this year and I’m sure that her degree in sociology would have absolutely no use for her future job prospect but at least she was exposed to a few things that forced her to have an intellectual curiosity. Now, was it worth the $100,000 tuition that an average US student pays these days? Absolutely not but it was worth the $35,000 that we ended up paying for her tuition.

    • College exposes you to nothing not on the Internet
      The problem is isolation
      College can be a venue for neat new friends
      Communing with other heads and all that
      But in the end you prolly can commune
      As well with
      “that old gang of mine “

  8. I’ve never liked Michelle, even though I’ve been endlessly told I *should.* I find her unpleasant and finger-wagging. Sour. And she cultivates this, “I’m all THAT” two-circlesand-a-snap attitude, and I’m always left thinking: You’re all WHAT, exactly? A corporate lawyer?

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