Real Wealth Society

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I’ve been thinking about allegories By Fred Cederholm

Column for on/after Mar. 18th

I’ve been thinking about allegories. Actually I’ve been thinking metaphorically about college, recruitment, education/learning, graduation, costs, trustees, tenure, and “Animal House” – all in the context of the ongoing “war” in Iraq. An allegory is a narrative where similarities in the narrative story are used symbolically to make a point (or points) about something else. The allegory is longer in length and describes more fully in detail than the metaphor - or the direct comparison. It appeals to the critical TH*NK*NG and imagination of the reader. The fable or parable is a short allegory with one definite moral, or lesson. It is way beyond time for US/us to look “outside the box” in our analysis, evaluation, and critiquing of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed in the Middle East.

You see, this past Sunday marked the passing of the fourth full year of the Administration’s invasion, occupation, and policing in Iraq. The action commenced on March 19, 2002 and has already dragged on far longer than anyone expected – at least that’s what they keep telling us. While this four year phyrric epic doesn’t correspond with an academic calendar, it has already lasted the equivalent of eight full semesters and four full summer sessions. A war-college allegory seems more than appropriate.

The soldiers – make that the students – were recruited with promises of an education, benefits accruing down the road, foreign land experience, etc., all within the context of helping them “be all that they can be.” The curriculum of this so-called “Iraq University” was somewhat limited to studies in political science, democracy building, law enforcement, and (by default) medical triage. The studies and field trips follow no clock as the participants are immersed in the experience there 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Stresses and strains placed upon the men and women far exceed any academic burn-out.

It may be true that all are learning lessons which will remain with them all the days of their lives, but is the curriculum proving to be really what they (or their families) had expected when they enrolled? Likewise, what progress is really being made toward any form of graduation, or exit? After eight full semesters plus four summer sessions, have they not the right to expect some form of diploma, and the chance to begin a new life elsewhere? The students at Uncle $ugar’s University in Iraq, do not have the option to accept their sheepskin, and depart. There have been no bachelor’s degrees awarded to anyone. So… does that mean that all the students have “elected” to stay on, pursuing some form of master’s degree, or doctorate? Trust me, the choice of any transfer/exit is not the option of any soldier/ student involved - despite the temptation to call it a wrap (and depart) by parties there, or on the home-front.

The costs of “tuition, fees, housing, and supplies” are/ were running amok and have been financed 100% by evergreen debt. Plus… over 3,200 students have died during this learning experience, and over 24,000 more have been severely injured. Last November, the public - having had more than their fill of the academic progress being made and the escalating costs of this education - spoke loudly. A number of the members of Congress (make that the watchdog trustees) were replaced. Despite the promises made at the homecoming rallies, it doesn’t look like any progress is being made on a timetable for graduation.

“College” President George, Chancellor Dick, and Provost Condi are still at the helm, and their tenure (of sorts) will run to January of 2009. Dean Donald Rumsfeld has only just been replaced by new Dean Gates. Virtually all of the full professors – make that the US military commanders – have been replaced at least once since this school for scandal commenced on March 19, 2002. Now… we’ve heard that enrollment needs to be increased by 21,600 - only to learn within weeks that the “surge” of students would really be upped to over 30,000 - ultimately on the way to a total population of 200,000 (?) Is there any unpublicized plan to expand this Iraqi school onto “satellite campuses” in Jordan? Syria? Iran?

What have we learned from this seemingly endless educational experience at the “Iraqi School of Hard Knocks” thus far? Will the painful (and costly) lessons go on and on mindlessly with no foreseen graduation in sight? What will we have to show for the efforts, the time, the money, and the lives? Down the road in March of 2009, will we all find ourselves only parroting the “Animal House” (Belushi/Bluto) character’s sorry lament: “Seven years of college down the drain!” I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright 2007 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved.


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