Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Good Ol' Days.

I was just complaining that nothing has happened lately for me to rant about, therefore giving me nothing to write about. I was bored with writing about co-workers, and the influx of celebrity fuckery has been fairly slow as of late. Just when I thought I was about to have another brain freeze, I decided to watch "The Great Debaters." This would be my first time watching the movie, even though I had been wanting to see it forever, but never got a chance to.

It was a great movie if I do say so. It also triggered me to think about the state of historically black colleges back in the 1930s, as opposed to historically black colleges of today. I suppose I should put a disclaimer somewhere before I get started. I'm not trying to come at anyone sideways who has attended or graduated from an HBCU. I am simply going to give my opinion based on my experiences and observations at the HBCU I attended.

When I made the decision to attend Clark Atlanta University back in 2008, I could not have been happier. I told anyone who would listen about my grand plans to move to the "A." I couldn't wait to be in what has been called the "Black Mecca," and network with intellectual, upwardly mobile black people that valued education and wanted to make something of themselves. I had heard some naysayers give their opinion that a degree from an HBCU would not be taken "seriously" in the real world, but I strongly disagreed. In my opinion, HBCUs were the foundation that higher education for African-Americans had been built on, and they would surely be of the same quality--if not better--that they were during the Jim Crow era.

Imagine my surprise--and disappointment--when I got to my "dream" school and realized that everything I had expected was exactly that....a dream. Within the first couple weeks of my matriculation, I was sick to my stomach because I felt like I had made the worst decision ever. I went to orientation events that included watching my fellow coeds backing that ass up on one another. The majority of girls that I spoke to seemed less interested in exploring academic options, and more interested in hitting up Lenox Mall and "talking" to as many guys on campus, and at the neighboring campus of Morehouse, as they possibly could.

As classes began, I noticed even more so how uninvolved a lot of the students seemed to be when it came to finishing class assignments or even coming to class at all. I had some classmates who rarely showed up to class unless it was exam day, and many others moaned and groaned when instructors assigned 5-page papers. The actual exams that we took were beyond easy, and in one class, so many people neglected to buy the required textbook that my professor simply made photocopies of everything that we needed to read and handed them out. Needless to say, I was pissed that I was taking the effort, and spending the money, to do what I thought was required of everyone.

Towards the end of my first semester, I had dealt with so much bullshit with the school, and bullshit in Atlanta in general, that I knew I couldn't stay at CAU. I contemplated going to Georgia State, and also SCAD-Atlanta, which is where I had originally planned to go before I found out that CAU had a Fashion program. Unfortunately, SCAD was even more expensive than CAU so that was a no-go. I went home for Christmas break and took that time to think about what I wanted to do the next semester. I hesitantly decided to go back to CAU the following spring, and although I made the effort to change my attitude about the situation I had put myself in, the atmosphere hadn't changed at all. People still hung out on the campus Promenade more than they went to class, and still sent exam answers via text message rather than studying for the exam. This was the same semester that CAU decided to make faculty cuts, and one of my classes was canceled without any prior notice to the students.

I had had enough, and by the end of my second semester, I came to the conclusion that CAU just wasn't for me. I am the type of person that gets very bored when I'm not being challenged, and being at CAU was not challenging at all. It made no sense to me that I could go without reading any of the required textbooks in my classes and still get A's. My mother advised me that I should just stay there, get straight A's, get my degree, and get out. Being my stubborn self, I couldn't bring myself to do it. In my mind, if I didn't feel like I earned that degree, it didn't mean shit. I wouldn't even be able to take myself seriously, so how could I expect a potential employer to take me seriously when going in for a job interview? I began to understand what people meant when they said that degrees from HBCUs did not carry the same weight as degrees from other institutions of higher learning. Although I understood it, it pissed me off. What happened to the historically black colleges of decades past? Where were the W.E.B. DuBoises, the Langston Hughes, the Thurgood Marshalls? Where was this damn Black Mecca that I had heard so much about? Why were my peers less concerned about getting a quality education, and more concerned about wearing the latest pair of True Religions, and comparing who could do the best "dougie" moves?

"The Great Debaters" is an example of the historically black college that I envisioned before embarking on my journey to Atlanta. That was the time when professors mentally stimulated their students, rather than giving them a grade just so they would not have to take the same class twice. That was the time when education was truly valued, because they actually had to fight for it. It saddens me that the value placed on higher education for black people seems to have been lost on a lot of people in my generation. I don't want to say that I have completely lost faith in historically black colleges, but I can say that I look at it from a very different light than I did several years ago.


NC17 said...

wow. i've heard the same thing about Tuskegee, its sad that hbc's don't push their students, and it's even sadder than black students expect a cake walk... niggas

imjustsaying said...

First off, I love your blog! Long time reader, first time commenter. And you've definitely ruffled my feathers. I’m a graduate of North Carolina A&T (Bachelors) and the University of Notre Dame (Masters) and I wouldn’t trade my HBCU experience for ANYTHING in this world. Granted it may have not been like “The Great Debaters” or even “School Daze” for that matter – but dammit if I didn’t have a blast AND learn a lot about myself and my field in the process.

It has NEVER been looked down upon to have my degree from A&T and I got a job right after graduation working alongside all my “other” counterparts who spent $40K+ a year at a white school. A&T pushed and challenged me. So maybe you just picked the wrong school. Or wrong major. But I think it’s incorrect to assume all HBCU’s are a scene out of “House Party.”


Anonymous said...

Good post!

I think Tennessee State University is a historically black college (right?...) but it is like the butt of all jokes amongst me and my friends in Nashville. No one I know takes that school seriously. It's like high school PT.II and if I didn't already know Oprah graduated from there I would have never believed it. All you have to do in order to graduate there is show up for class and know how to count to ten. That must be the case with the amount of ignorant MF-er's I've met with degrees from that school.

UglyCleanBroke87 said...

@imjustsaying, first I would like to say thanks for the comment! I appreciate any and all feedback.

Now to address what you were saying, as I stated early on in the post, I can't speak for everyone that has attended an HBCU and in no way was I suggesting that EVERY HBCU is a party school. That was simply my experience. I wish it would have been different, but it is what it is. Also, did I choose the wrong school? Yes. The wrong major? I don't think so. I'm just as passionate about fashion as some people are about studying law or science. I would choose it as a major/career no matter what school I attended.

Thanks again for the comment, and don't be a stranger! :)

@Alee, I'm really not sure about Tennessee State U. being an HBCU. *Whispers: I had never heard of it until you mentioned it*
LOL @ counting to ten to graduate.