by PETER LANG:

I am a special snowflake. Or, as other people put it, just a flake. I came to university with high hopes. You’d think I’d learn: as that bottomless pit of the hive mind, the internet, put it “expectations are just preconceived resentments”.

I’m a little grey around the muzzle, being 21 in dog years, and the university experience has changed a fair bit since last time I was here. Back in the good old days, when Malcolm Fraser was Prime Minister, I went to uni. There was none of this “the lecture slides are on blackboard” nonsense (which is a brush-off saying “I don’t want to answer your question”); if you wanted to know what the lecturer was thinking, you’d actually have to go to the lectures. Go to lectures and pay attention, what’s more.

Apparently this is obsolete thinking. That was then, and this is the New! Improved! Now! All in the name of efficiency, I guess. I suppose the move from slide rules to electronic calculating gizmotrons is an advance, but considering that the uni won’t allow calculators designed after 1980, I should feel right at home.

The time saved by shifting the work and assessment “online” as the young people say, frees up time for the academics to spend writing grant applications and completing the endless paperwork from the Department of Education.

It turns out that I’m not a special snowflake. Just as I dismiss young people as largely indistinguishable and interchangeable (although I can normally suppress my sociopathic tendencies; I’d have to send my suit to the dry cleaners to get your blood out of it, and that would just lead to endless, pointless questions from the police, let alone my dry cleaner) it appears that age engenders no special regard from the academics.

At least the young people have the decorum to stifle their snickering until after I’ve left the room.

So not only do I have to master the material, I have to battle the garbage technology as well. “Blackboard is used in the high schools,” say its advocates. Oh great. So my lack of familiarity with the software is another damn thing that the kids have over me. I didn’t have software at my high school: forty years ago what we had – besides actual blackboards – was a punch card machine that shredded the cards if they weren’t fed in exactly flat-and-square.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the technology was actually an advance. However, it is a cumbersome nuisance that forces everyone that comes in contact with it to jump through hoops – if your document isn’t in exactly the right format it will stomp you. And even that’s no guarantee. Try downloading a PDF to an Android. There’s a 50-50 chance you’ll get an “invalid document” error.

But I have to suck it up. That’s how it’s done these days. Just don’t count on me for an alumni donation: throw your damn software to the big bit-bucket in the sky and use the money you save on licensing fees to add the course outline and lecture slides to the front of the lab workbook.


Peter is an irritable old man who’s hobbies include shouting at clouds and complaining about young people.

Story image copyright 20th Century Fox.