“If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.”
The quote above is the course epigraph for INTD 105 section 3 from Octavia Butler’s story, “Bloodchild”. Upon reading this quote I began thinkING about the current state in which many of my peers and I find ourselves as college students. “Bloodchild” alludes many times to themes that I found tied to the experiences of my peers, and myself.
Butler notes in the afterword of “Bloodchild” one of the themes that the story exemplifies. “It’s a coming-of-age story in which a boy must absorb disturbing information and use it to make a decision that will affect the rest of his life” (Butler). “Bloodchild” tracks a story of a young man’s struggle in deciding his future. This decision is not described in this quote but what is important to note is the fact that this unknown decision will “affect the rest of his life”. This decision, in that sense, is not that unlike the decision may of my peers have to face. I personally find myself content with the academic partnership I have with Geneseo. However, I can, to the best of my ability, describe my brother’s college experience.
My brother was not the best student in high school. Although a social savant who could make everyone his friend or follower, he did not take to studying or doing school work. He saw more value in making personal connections and making allies with those around him. This is not to say my brother is unintelligent by any means, no, my brother is vastly smarter than me in the social arena. My brother was a Machiavellian figure, in terms of his understanding of how people work.
Despite his social genius, he did not know what he wanted to do for a living. My brother decided to take a risk and spend money to go to college, not sure footed in what he wanted to study. A year or so later, my brother was failing classes, flexing his social-muscles at parties, and on his way to leaving without a degree. Much of this was to the chagrin of my mother, who did not care if my brother went to college, but was concerned that he was wasting precious time and money floundering in something that just wasn’t for him. My brother dropped out and started working in the restaurant industry, where he climbed his way to the top of a series of fine dining restaurants in the city of Rochester. My brother is debt free, managing two successful restaurants, and making much more than many of his college educated peers. My brother knew people, so an education in statistics, or any number of other courses were not valuable to his skill set. My brother took the risk of going to college and starting an academic partnership but it was not worth it for him.
Some time after seeing my brother’s tumultuous path, it was my time to make a decision about my future. I knew that if I wanted to go to college I needed to know what I wanted to get out of my education first. I spent some time thinking and determined that I would like to go into English teaching. My thought process was that I would have summers off to pursue music, I would have a job out of college based on connections I have, and by going to a great SUNY school like Geneseo, I wouldn’t incur a great deal of debt. These reasons combined with my love of language and literature led me to my decision, which so far seems to be a good one.
However, I had the benefit of being able to see what my older siblings went through, and learn from their successes and mistakes. For many college students, they are the first people in their family to go to college, or at least the first of their siblings. Many students are encountering a world they may not be totally prepared for.
The word “risk” is one I noted in the course epigraph. It prompted me to begin thinking about the risks us college students find ourselves in. Many of us students find ourselves in the unique position of being tied into college contracts, and financial agreements the second we enter “adulthood”. Despite being fresh out of the nest, we are expected to take that risky leap of faith, trusting that college is best for us, without any evidence to look to. The majority of students have never had to sign life changing contracts, many of us were never taught how to defend ourselves from those who may take advantage of us financially.
Many of the ideas “Bloodchild” raises discussing coming of age, and risk, in conjunction with my own personal experiences of academic partnership made me think of the allegory of the cave. For those of you who do not know, the allegory of the cave, is an allegorical theory by Plato that discusses the “effect of education and the lack of it on our nature”. In summary the allegory is as follows: prisoners are chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see, from where they are chained, is the wall of the cave in front of them. There is a fire behind the prisoners that casts shadows on the wall they are facing. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a walkway, along which people can walk behind the prisoners, casting shadows on the wall. The prisoners are unable to see these people, in reality, only seeing what the shadow depicts. Because the prisoners can only see the shadows, they only understand this to be their reality, when in fact it is just what they can see. Plato notes that if somehow, a prisoner can free themselves and walk out of the cave they can either become blinded by the light of true reality and return to the cave, or their eyes will adjust and they can accept the sunlight. The analogy here is that the cave is ignorance, lack of knowledge, and education is the process of freeing oneself from the chains of ignorance. The sunlight is knowledge of reality, which we can accept and live in the light of day, or reject and return to the cave.
Please excuse that long tirade of explanation, but it is a mistake to assume everyone’s knowledge of Plato’s allegory. You may be asking, “who cares?”. I will try to answer that for you to the best of my ability, giving it the “old college try”, as it is said. Right now my fellow students and I are at the edge of the cave. We must decide for ourselves whether or not an academic partnership is worth the risk it may cause, whether we should step out of the cave into the light that is academic partnership. For myself and many of my peers the answer to this question can only be obtained through experience and time, but hopefully this course can help my peers and myself come closer to our answer.