Big fan of community colleges here. Big, big fan. They offer a reasonably priced alternative to the traditional four-year experience, and they’re useful for so many — for the first-generation higher-ed student, for the tech-certification student, for the budget-conscious student and probably a few I’m forgetting. When Bernie and his fellow travelers talk about “free college,” this is what they are talking about, or should be. Not four years at Oberlin, but two years of post-secondary at a local, public community college. It’s good for everyone, and by everyone I mean from students up through society at large.
This is another reason I find the private-sector poaching of community-college students so disgraceful. There is zero reason an 18-year-old should be taking on a better-car-size debt to get a “degree” in dental hygiene. Walking to my car after work one day, I passed a young woman in a cap and gown, making a phone call outside a downtown Detroit theater. On the marquee was a congratulatory message to the graduates of some “institute” that advertises on local TV, touting their night and online classes and flexible hours, ideal for working parents, etc. I wanted to ask her how much debt she’d taken on for her certificate. I wanted to tell her she could have saved money by getting all that stuff from her local CC. But why spoil a cap-and-gown occasion by spraying bummer juice all over it? Really.
And that’s why it was so disappointing to see that one of these public CCs, Wichita State University-Tech, invited Ivanka Trump to be their commencement speaker. The date was surely booked months ago. I’m not sure when the “virtual” speech the White House released over the weekend was recorded, but if it wasn’t “five minutes after she agreed to the date,” it’s yet another astonishing failure and misreading of the public mood by Team Trump and most especially, Team Ivanka.
From the beginning, the First Daughter’s presence in the White House has chapped my ass. Never mind that she was there in the first place; let’s just talk about her utter, utter cluelessness in how she’s…what’s the phrase we use today? “Built her brand,” yes. As the administration lurches from one disaster to the next, Ivanka soldiers on with her pretty-princess photo ops and video drops that get worse with every passing day, suggesting she is learning nothing, nothing at all, from her time in the West Wing.
It’s possible, in weak moments, to see Ivanka as yet another victim of her parents’ horrible raising, of her neglectful father and gold-digging mother. (One of the many things I learned about Ivana Sr. is that she’s been married four times, only her second lasting longer than two years.) From them, she obviously learned that a woman’s worth is always founded upon her physical attractiveness, and that attractiveness must always be sold with a smile. At a time when women so often complain about being told by men to “smile more,” it seems weird to tell Ivanka to smile less, but there you are — another norm smashed by the Trump family.
But then I think, if you start handing out those passes, when does it stop? The first daughter will be 39 on her next birthday. She’s a mother herself. What is she teaching her own daughter, whether overtly or by example? At what point do you hold people accountable for their actions?
Ivanka, we learned last week, was the one who thought up the photo op in front of the church, that the Bible her father held up like an auctioneer was carried in her Max Mara purse. And Ivanka delivered that clueless, tone-deaf, utterly ridiculous “commencement address” without an obvious gun to her head. She didn’t seem strung out on veterinary-grade Xanax like her stepmother did, moving woodenly through her own horrible photo ops last week. No, she sold that thing, with her head-swiveling and eyelash-batting and vocal inflections straight from the Madonna Institute of Trying to Sound Vaguely English or at Least Not From Michigan.
And now the graduates of WSU-Tech will have the dubious distinction of not only being deprived of their own cap-and-gown graduation, but of being forever associated with that ghastly display, although to their credit they also got it cancelled. A community college should invite someone who knows community colleges, preferably a speaker who’s attended one, but at least one who gets what’s involved in a CC education. Not a graduate of a private high school followed by a grease-slicked slide through an Ivy, who then delivers a line written by whatever GOP ladder-climbing intern came up with it: “Your journey to this day did not come without challenges, sacrifices, determination, grit, sweat, and likely even a few tears, but you persevered.”
It’s funny. Commencement addresses are generally accompanied by an honorary degree, a harmless bit of theater that suffices for a bigger honorarium. I wonder what was planned for Ivanka, pre-pandemic? An honorary tech certificate in welding or drone technology? Or maybe dental hygiene, to honor her shiny veneers. Who knows?
I think it was Rick Wilson who wrote the book “Everything Trump Touches Dies,” which has become a hashtag: #ETTD. It’s too bad this has been passed on to his children, but at some point it’s up to them to say, “Stop touching me, dad.” (And I don’t mean that in a sexual sense, and please let’s not go there in the comments.) It’s hard to break from one’s family, but sometimes it has to be done.
I have one bit of bloggage today, this Chicago Sun-Times piece on one of the young men arrested for rioting in that city. Among the million possible jokes you could make about it: Beavis & Butthead grow up, etc. But I see it as yet another version of Ivanka, just way more downmarket.
Now to clean the bathroom for the later arrival of J.C. and Sammy! A socially distanced cocktail hour is called for, for sure.