Monday, August 6, 2007

Deep South - Part 4- Education

When I moved to Louisiana, I had one semester left of college. I really wanted to get my degree. So, I enrolled in the college nearest to Fort Polk. Get ready, its a long one...Northwestern State University of Louisiana at Natchitoches.

In order to get in to the university, you must have a 2.0 G.P.A. or a 940 on the SAT and be in the top 50% of your class. Tough standards.

Natchitoches, is not pronounced the way it looks. It's pronounced, "Nack i tush."

Natchitoches is about a one hour drive north of Leesville, thru Kisatchie National Forest. It was a pretty easy drive, just one road. I arranged my schedule so I would only have to make the drive 3 times a week.
The road was a two lane road. There was not much on the road, all I remember are lots of pine trees and a couple of taxidermists. I don't think I've ever seen a taxidermist shop in NY. I'm sure they exist, but not on any road I've ever traveled.

So, it was pretty much me and the logging trucks. Getting stuck behind a logging truck was the worst. The logs constantly threw off hard pieces of mud. Get too close, and the mud is sure to crack your windshield. I know this from experience. They were very difficult to pass. Whenever I would try, I swear the trucks would speed up. I'm convinced it was because I was driving a Nissan. I think I was the only person in Louisiana with a Japanese car.

One day, a huge ugly bird was in the middle of the road. I have never seen a bird this big in my life. I'm pretty sure it was a black vulture, who had found some road kill for breakfast. I beeped my horn, but the bird didn't move. I had no choice but to hit him. The bird hit the hood of my car, and for a few seconds, the car went black. All I could see was black feathers, completely covering my windshield. This bird had a huge wingspan. Luckily, he went over the roof before I hit something else. I saw him laying in the middle of the road in my rear view mirror. He was dead. On my way home, I looked for the bird. He was no where to be found. I wondered if a taxidermist picked him up for dinner.

Drive onto the main campus, and you can tell right away, its all about their football team.

They have a huge football stadium. Considering Natchitoches is in the middle off nowhere, I was really surprised by the size. Southerners love their football.

I felt completely out of place on campus, especially in my Educational Psychology class. The course is a prerequisite for teaching certification in Louisiana. The class was all women. They all had big, hairsprayed southern hair, perfectly manicured fingers, full faces of make up, and very colorful wardrobes. I felt like the ugly duckling in the beauty pageant. In the northeast, students often went to class in their pajamas. Rarely did they put on make up. It was my last class of the day, and I dreaded going to it. These beauty queens would ask the dumbest questions. They drove me nuts. They clearly weren't reading the textbook, didn't understand what they read or had done too much brain damage by inhaling hairspray fumes. I couldn't believe that these people would be the future teachers of Louisiana's youth.

I took an English course on the Fort Polk branch of the college. Again, the people in the class drove me crazy with their questions. One day, our professor was handing back our first essay assignment. She said, "I am very disappointed in these papers. Every essay you write should have an introduction, body and conclusion." Duh, I thought. I've known that since 4th grade. Still, I was nervous that maybe I hadn't done a good job. Then she said, "I'm going to read you an example of what your essay should sound like." She began reading, and I recognized it as my own essay. I relaxed, but was somewhat embarrassed. When she was done, the class had lots of questions about how to write an essay. I was bored out of my mind, and just wanted to walk out. I couldn't believe I was paying money (really my dad was paying) to hear how to do something I learned in elementary school. The professor handed back my paper. She had written a note on it which said, "You have restored my faith in the Louisiana educational system." I never told her I was educated in the Northeast.

I did take one class that was more like the ones I took in the northeast. It was a philosophy class, called "Aesthetics". It was a small class, with a vibrant professor. I learned a lot in that class, and felt more at home. The people in that class were clearly on a different level than the ones in the educational courses. Maybe they were all foreign exchange students.

I was lucky, all my credits from NSU transferred to Siena, and I was able to get my diploma. I'm not sure Siena would have accepted the credits if my dad hadn't been a professor there. I certainly did not have to work very hard to earn those credits in Louisiana. Although, I did learn a lot about the south's educational system. What an experience.

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