Sunday, August 27, 2023

An end-of-summer grab bag.


Indigolotos | Deposit Photos
I mean, we do have another week before summer's over, assuming we're using the traditional US end-of-summer metric: Labor Day weekend. Back in the day, school started the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Now schools start in mid to late August, or even earlier, so that's hardly relevant anymore. It also used to be that you were only supposed to wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day unless you were a bride, but that's out the window now, too.

And of course, the official end of summer for Pagans is the autumn equinox, which is September 21st or thereabouts. Unless we're talking about meteorological summer, which ends September 1st. 

But I'm sure I've banged on about all this before. And really, it hardly matters; after so many decades of considering Labor Day to be the end of summer for all intents and purposes, I just do.

And I'm glad to see this one just about done. 

It occurred to me last month that July has become the worst month of the year for me. There's always some crisis. In 2020, besides the pandemic, I found myself unexpectedly working an extra three weeks in DC while trying to pack and move cross-country. I finally got to Santa Fe at the end of July, but I didn't get my stuff out of quarantine until August. Then in 2021, I decided to buy the condo, which meant packing and moving in July and August for the second year in a row. Last year, I had cataract surgery in late July, and the recovery slopped into August.

This year, I warped the loom for a ruana over Memorial Day weekend, but I didn't get to the weaving in June because I was working on my tote bag for El Rancho de las Golondrinas. Then in early July, the upstairs neighbor's plumbing sprung a leak; I lost all of July and part of August to the repairs. I've spent the past two weekends setting my bedroom to rights. The loom somehow escaped the flood, but I have a lot less time now to finish the ruana before I need to wear it for the final event of the season at Las Golondrinas. Maybe I'll get the weaving done on the first half of the project this week and warp the loom for the second half over Labor Day weekend. That would be a nice bookend to this summer. We'll see how it goes.

So that's one of the things on my mind. Here's another: West Virginia University is drastically scaling back its liberal arts offerings. The school's board of regents has decided to cut 32 majors -- nine percent of those previously offered, including several foreign language programs -- and seven percent of the total faculty. WVU is suffering from a $45 million budget shortfall, hence the cuts. Students are livid. They staged a protest against the cuts this past Monday.

University officials say the problem is declining enrollment. That's exacerbated by the state's drop in population -- West Virginia is the only state in the Union that has fewer residents now than it did in 1950. But critics point to the administration's reluctance to ask for more state funding. Others complain that it's the liberal arts taking the brunt of the cuts -- that the university is more than happy to keep its business school functioning -- and it's particularly galling that it's happening in one of the nation's poorest states. 

WVU may be the first university to scale back on liberal arts offerings, but I doubt it will be the last. There's been a push over the past few decades to devalue a college education. A whole lot of folks have come to the conclusion that college is only for getting a better-paying job; basically, they say, it's vocational education for the professions. Many of these folks see no value in learning for the sake of learning. What's the point of studying literature or art or music, they say, if you can't make a living at it?

Speaking of vocational education, there's also the whole "not everybody needs to go to college" drumbeat. The folks who say that have a point: of course we need mechanics and electricians and plumbers. 

But I think there may be an agenda here. I think there are factions in this country -- conservative, authoritarian-leaning folks -- who don't want people trained to be deep thinkers. I think they regret allowing the middle and lower classes access to a college education in the past, because studying liberal arts in college taught us critical thinking skills. Essentially, we have the skills to call our leaders on their bullshit, and they don't like it. They can't re-educate us, but they can limit access to that kind of education for those who come after us. And I think that's what we're seeing here.

I hope WVU's actions don't become a trend, but I have a feeling they will.

Speaking of authoritarian types: We have a busy week ahead in the Trump indictment saga. Tomorrow, there's a hearing on former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows's request to move his RICO trial from Georgia state court to federal court. There's also a hearing in DC, where the federal judge overseeing the January 6th case plans to set a trial date; special counsel Jack Smith has asked for the trial to start January 2, 2024, and Trump's team has asked for the trial to be pushed back to 2026. I'm pretty sure the judge will laugh that 2026 date out of court. We'll see if she grants the special counsel's request or picks another date.

It's already becoming hard to keep track of all the former president's trial proceedings, or even to keep them all straight. I proposed on Facebook that we give them nicknames: the Georgia indictment; the classified documents indictment; the January 6 insurrection and riot indictment; and the porn star payoff indictment. Then somebody reminded me that he's facing a couple of civil trials, too, so I guess we need to add the Trump Organization fraud trial and the "I didn't technically rape her" trial.

My, my. He's going to be busy. When's he going to have time to run a presidential campaign? Maybe he should just free up his calendar now and drop out.

These moments of grab-baggy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Buckle up, guys -- it's gonna be a busy fall!

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