8-1 satire

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A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis

8.1 (Winter 2008)




High College Costs, Low Student Achievement, Driven by Global Warming – Researchers Say

     Researchers at California State University , Van Nuys, and Michigan Central Teacher College of Farwell reported this week that global warming is the primary cause of both declining academic performance among North American college undergraduates and the rising costs associated with a baccalaureate degree.  The three-week-long multiple-perspective study was undertaken by assistants for the Senior-Level Sub-Dean of Diversity Quotas in Environmental Scholarship at CSUVN and four tenured members of the Alternative Literacies [sic] Program at MCTCF.  The team systematically surveyed multiple self-evaluations and statistical-anecdotal probability memoranda culled from a wide variety of auto-probative and theosophical sources appearing in carefully vetted blogs posted on the Internet since February.  “This is one of the most exhaustive studies of its kind to be carried out by institutions of our accreditation-level, in California or Michigan, during the past seventeen and a half months,” said Dr. Michelle Mausse, a CSUVN Diverse Arts Practical Instructor, who is acting co-chair of the project, and supervising gender-fairness editor of the semi-final quasi-executive summary of the project’s yet-to-be-published report.  Mausse also said that a surprising side-result of the consortium’s monumental twenty-one day data-collection effort was a strong indication that an expected storm of irate denials inspired by and aimed at the report would almost certainly exacerbate global warming, thereby degrading student performance even further and raising the price of a college education even higher.

When a reporter asked why Mausse anticipated such a belligerent reception for her findings, she replied, “Given the cutting-edge status of our conclusions and the transgressive methods employed during our strenuous three weeks of research, you can bet that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News will be working overtime to sap public confidence in our assertions.”  According to Mausse, the best way to prevent such obfuscation would be “to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine, ban SUVs, and approach North Korea with an environmentally friendly attitude.”

As stated in the semi-final quasi-executive summary, “Last year’s harsh winter in the Northeast and this summer’s record-breaking cool weather across the Upper Midwest prove incontrovertibly that global warming is on a steep rise.”  In an informative historical aside, the summary states that public consciousness about global warming began in earnest in the late 1960s with the appearance of Dr. Saul Schmerlich’s prophetic tract, Heat-Death by 1970—No Doubt About It.  Mausse attributes her own environmental “conversion” to perusing the Utne Reader’s “condensed” version of Schmerlich’s book while writing her feminist studies thesis at Mannless County Community College , near New Mytilene, Ohio , in 1984.  Republication of Schmerlich’s book has correlated over the decades with strong, measurable decreases in science-competency among first-semester freshmen, “and not just at campuses like CSUVN and MCTCF,” Mausse adds.  Is Schmerlich’s book therefore a bad influence?  “No,” says Mausse.  “Without Schmerlich, young people wouldn’t be alarmed about global warming and if they weren’t alarmed about global warming, they wouldn’t be in a haze when it comes to science.  Senator Gore owes a debt to Saul Schmerlich.  In fact, I find it hard to say Gore without saying Schmerlich at the same time.  I guess my mind just works that way.  As to scientific illiteracy—it’s not unambiguously bad although the anxiety it produces is bad.  Fighting global warming means getting people to relax and feel comfortable about things like ignorance and anxiety while maintaining an implacably hostile stance towards those who disagree with them.”

Reminded that her own university had recently issued a statement (“Hey, We Are So Not Stupid!”) contradicting the assertion that scientific literacy among the 17-24 age group has sunk in North America to near Third-World levels, and that she was a signatory, the feisty Mausse attacked “phallogocentric thinking and the prejudice against non-linear reasoning intrinsic to the patriarchy.”  She blamed the “alleged contradiction” on “structural biases in male-dominated education-research hitherto not addressed by affirmative action hiring.” As Mausse told a news conference earlier today, “Women and metrosexuals, like those on our team, tend to be more nurturing, caring, and intuitive than the old-fashioned all-male man, and our work reflects those qualities in a harsh, unsentimental, and unflinching way.”

The research revealed by Mausse and her collaborators defines a three-stage process by which global warming drives down the level of student performance, increases the likelihood of degree non-completion, and at the same time inflates the cost of undergraduate matriculation.

The first stage of the process is global warming itself.  The team ascertained the reality of global warming by repeatedly viewing the Al Gore documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and by skimming selected pages of Schmerlich’s Heat-Death by 1970—The Revised 2007 Edition.  Several telephone consultations were also arranged with Ward Churchill, noted plastic artist and former chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder .  “We wanted the authentic Native American perspective,” Mausse explains, “as part of our diversity mandate.”  A photograph of Churchill’s papier-mâché figurine, “Hot Prof”, will decorate the cover of The Mausse Report “whenever it’s published”, its main author affirmed.  “Hot Prof” depicts an environmentally sensitive, tribally affiliated, non-Ph.D.-holding chair of an academic department horribly oppressed by a white-male-European-inflicted global climatic catastrophe.

After global warming per se, says Mausse, the second stage of the process that she and her co-researchers have discovered is global warming awareness, already hinted at in Mausse’s remarks about Schmerlich.  “Normally,” Mausse explained, “we here at CSUVN value the diverse forms of awareness dearly, such as awareness of being a fully tenured faculty member at one of the most highly rated third-tier pre-teacher-training colleges in Van Nuys, but some kinds of awareness turn out to have a deleterious effect on holistic non-gendered wellbeing.”  Mausse’s senior research partner, Dr. C. Lardner Brainepanne of the Farwell Alternative Literacies [sic] Program ( Michigan ), seconds this point.  “For example,” Brainepanne says, “research has shown that awareness of not being able to read or write so good gets a lot worser for a person when they’re forced to be in a room with a bunch of smart-asses who know a lot of really big words.  When I was a undergraduate, there was this teacher, see, and he went around acting like he knew more than anybody else in the whole damned classroom.  That four-eyed little rat-face really grated my nerves.  That’s why we invented Alternative Literacies [sic] in the first place—to take the gut-wrenching awareness out of illiteracy and make TV- and hip-hop-based cultural complacency compatible with high self-esteem.”

Mausse picks up the thread of Brainepanne’s explanation.  “Simply put, awareness becomes obsession, but in a good way.  Thinking obsessively about how many manatees, dugongs, and sea cows Vice President Dick Cheney has already tortured and murdered, and about how many copies of The Greenpeace Manifesto he’s already flushed down the toilet, can make it virtually impossible for a person to think about other, unimportant things, like science.  I go to sleep night after night thinking obsessively about sea cows and toilets and so does my husband.  We have to remind people constantly of how close to extinction Bush and Cheney have already pushed the spotted owl, the Sasquatch, and the Lorax, not to mention Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, and the New Zealand Moa.  How many of those are left?  I devote most of my lecture-time to just this and I screen An Inconvenient Truth as often as possible, especially in my literature classes, along with The Lion King and Ocean’s Eleven.  Many of my better, most committed students bring their environmental convictions with them from high school, along with their body-piercings, tattoos, backwards baseball hats, enthusiasm for Nick at Night, binge drinking, cell phones, iPods, and sexual promiscuity.  So it’s not surprising that facts and figures or abstruse scientific arguments only confuse and anger our young people.  We make an effort metaphorically at CSUVN not to confuse these youths further by literally turning their baseball caps around, figuratively speaking, in the so-called right direction.”

In a third, culminating stage of the process, global warming decreases academic performance by forcing students to wear fewer and skimpier clothes, a trend noted keenly by students themselves, especially males.  Arwel Wankler, a seventh-year junior-level adult-entertainment major at Van Nuys, told a reporter, “Dude, what with all the sun bathing on a Friday afternoon, the main lawn here at CSUVN is a total babe-park.  It’s Thong City !  My boss at the place where I intern—Spanker Exotic Videos… like, he’s not even a student and he spends hours and hours of his own time right here scoping out the scene.  Quite a few Van Nuys girls have gotten good employment out of that.”  Mausse points to Wankler as a demonstration case for her hypothesis.  “Arwel should have graduated summa cum casually, our highest distinction, three years ago, but he has taken my capstone seminar on Lesbian Semiotics and the Politics of Oil four times without being able to pass the final exam.  There isn’t even any reading in that course, but you do have to bring your own oil.  I guess his parents will just have to keep financing him until he sweats out the transgressive challenge and earns his degree, or until the earth cools down.  I admire him for his hold-onto-it-until-you-bring-it-off attitude.”

Coeds are not immune from the distraction.  A young “interpretive dance major”, identifying herself only as “Tiffany”, says that the only thing she brought with her from high school were her augmentations, which are environmentally quite sensitive.  “Mostly I only go out at night anymore,” the young woman says.  “Fortunately, I work at a place called The North Pole.  The ‘pole’ is refrigerated as well as antiseptic and my job is sort of… air conditioned.”

In the past, sociologists and education specialists have blamed falling test-scores on factors like the intentional de-emphasis of basic literacy in K-12 and the corrosive effects of insipid mass-culture on the cognitive skills of children in elementary and secondary schools.  They have blamed soaring higher-education costs on administratively top-heavy institutions and the insistence by unionized faculty members that they teach fewer courses per semester than was regular in the past.  Astrophysicists and climatologists have attributed a small rise in the mean yearly global temperature to a cyclic increase in solar activity, said also to have affected the planet Mars, whose polar caps are retreating.  “Nonsense,” Mausse and Brainepanne argue.  “If you divest yourself of linear thinking, you’ll quickly see that global cooling in the past is part of a much vaster Bush-Cheney conspiracy.  Look at the creepy Skull-and-Bones eye on that pyramid on the dollar bill and tell us if there’s anything Bush and Cheney can’t do with their insidious male gaze.  As a matter of fact, we celebrate global cooling in past centuries, since without it global warming today would never have been so obvious.”

According to Mausse, global warming, in addition to depressing intellectual acuity in college students and hiking the baccalaureate’s price tag without any foreseeable limit, has other devastating effects.  “There are the vapors, for example.  More and more cases of the vapors are being reported on college campuses, especially when someone questions the rationale for great programs like feminist studies or diverse arts.  We’ve also heard reliable tales of conniption fits and ‘restless panty syndrome’.”

When the report sees print, it will include five key policy recommendations.

*Keep as much of Canada as possible frigid and uninhabitable for the next ten thousand years.

*Get people in Des Moines to act “cooler”—like people in Portland, say, or Seattle.

*Reinstate Rosie O’Donnell on The View.

*Use less toilet paper—only one sheet per visit.

*Mandatory goddess-worship.

Mausse sees a connection between the problems she investigates and, perhaps surprisingly, the possibility of bringing conservatives, who tend to take a skeptical position on global warming, to her point of view.  Referring to the second-to-last policy recommendation, she says, “As we learn to use less and less toilet paper per visit, there will be fewer and fewer people from foreign countries wanting to come to the United States—and people born in this country will find more value than ever in the soft, caressing vellum of their expensively purchased college diplomas.”

(Thomas F. Bertonneau, Oswego, New York, filed this story.)