I was back on the Chico State campus last week, and the new first year students are here, parents hovering nearby as they prepare to cast them out to wilds of Chico State. The newly minted frosh are of course relishing this—they realize that Chico Rocks, and that they have finally managed to land where they are meant to be, if only they can finally ditch their parents, and seek out what the college president insists are that elusive “Chico Experience.”
So in this essay I will confirm: junior you’ve made it. I know that you could have gone to UC Berkeley, but somehow you managed to elude that destiny. Some of you flat out turned down the offer of a free ride to Berkeley—and we thank you for having the gumption to do so. Others of you were trickier and more devious in avoiding being cast into the huge classes of Berkeley, even though that was your parents’ greatest desire. Perhaps you cut class during that 11th grade history exam in order to ruin your 4.0 gpa. Or you got placed in detention during that stupid health exam for talking in class. Maybe you hung out behind the gym doing who knows what. Or perhaps you (like me) you flunked p.e. Whatever it was, congratulations and well-done! Now you’ve arrived at Chico State, and you can finally announce to all Chico Rocks, and Berkeley Sucks!
Now, go read this essay which will put into big words what you have known all along about the relationship between Chico and Berkeley. Your parents are bound to be amazed at your learned erudition when you roll in next Thanksgiving. And to top it off, the geek from you high school who made it into Berkeley (and refused to cut the history test or hang out behind the gym) won’t really understand what it is about, and will stomp off huffing and puffing and announce “Sour Grapes!”
Back form reading the essay? Good. Now go out and drop that Accounting Class, and sign up for a Sociology Class. Intro to Sociology (Sociology 100) will do—your goal should be to work yourself up to Classical Social Theory where you can learn more about the astonishing thoughts of not only Max Weber, but also Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, W. E. B. DuBois and Mary Wollstonecraft. (Yes, that’s the same Karl Marx you might learn about in Berkeley, but we put a slightly different spin on it at Chico!). I guarantee you that you will really like Mary Wollstonecraft in particular—all students do. Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the first writers who described the weird dance between men and woman—and offered a virtuous formula for getting past the nonsense you, as new students recently freed of your parents, will likely be engaging in as you prance about the dining commons seeking “true love.”
So you’ve checked Chico State’s Fall 2012 schedule and found out that there are no sections of Sociology 100 available? Yep, that’s right, the man (that’s Governor Jerry Brown and the State Legislature) cut a bunch of Sociology 100 sections this year so your parents and their friends do not have to pay as much in taxes as your grandparents did to the same Governor Brown (he never goes away). But don’t worry, generational inequality is a problem which you will also learn about in Sociology. The end result is that you can’t get your sociology class, even though your parents did. So you better stick out Accounting, but be sure to be aggressive about getting it next semester. That way I will hopefully see you in Classical Social Theory in your sophomore year!
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.