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Poem: "A Question of Class" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "A Question of Class"
This poem developed outside of a prompt call, based on continuing discussions about Damask and also the "management" square in my 11-26-13 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.

"A Question of Class"


As soon as enrollment opens,
I download the coursebook
and begin researching options
for next semester's classes,
because schedule management
is part of my responsibility.

I want to start with Theatre,
picking a couple of classes
for our major.

The Theatre Department's website
has been hacked to read,
Professor Feldstein is a hardass.
Go for O'Keefe instead

I check the campus bulletin boards
and a couple of rating sites;
surprisingly, the advice seems accurate,
so I make a note of it.

I jot down some ideas
for Theatre classes,
but beyond that, I'm lost.

I decide to call a meeting
in case anyone else has ideas.


We pile into the living room,
arranging ourselves on the pit group
and tossing the throw pillows to the floor.

Mira fills the big bowl with popcorn
and we pass it around
as we lean over Clarity's shoulders
to read the available classes
on the laptop screen.

I noticed that Clarity has marked
several possible classes in Theatre.
"Okay, here's a question for everyone,"
I say. "Are we all still interested in acting?"

That's a bit nerve-wracking, because
we're so chopped up that it feels like
we've lost a lot in the process.
We don't always like the same things
that Maisie used to.

Everyone is nodding, though,
so we've dodged the bullet this time.
"It looks like we can keep our major," I say.


"I kind of like Method Acting," I say.
"There's a direct sequel, Method Acting 151."

The professor is impressed by how
I'll do things like use real duct tape
to get into character as a hostage,
or hang from a chin-up bar
before playing a tired athlete.

"We've just done an acting class, though,"
Ham points out. "How about switching
to something different, like plays?"

"Theatre 102: The Greek Classics is popular,"
says Clarity. "That's a reading/writing class,
with a little performance included."
"I'm on board with that," Ham says.

"What about things we can use
outside of school, for superhero work?"
Mira asked. "It would be handy
to know more about disguise."

"Professor O'Keefe is teaching
Theatre 110: Stage Makeup and Costume,"
Clarity said. "That comes recommended."
Mira nods happily.

I just shrug. "If it makes you happy,"
I say, "but don't expect me to come to those."


"What kind of classes would you like?"
I ask Keane, knowing how important it is
to keep everyone invested in our education.

"You know me, I like pain," says Keane.
"Physical classes are good,
but I wouldn't mind more first aid."

"I'd love to take a first aid class to boost
what I know from first responder training,"
I say as I lean back against the cushions.
"We could sure use that in the field, too.
Fighting means people get hurt."

"First Aid 120: Trauma would fulfill
a science requirement for general studies,"
Clarity reports, tapping at the laptop.
"Any objections?"

People shake their heads,
and Clarity adds it to our potential schedule.


"History of Superheroes sounds good,"
says Ham. "It's relevant to our goals,
might help us understand ourselves better,
and it fills a history requirement."

"Too obvious," Mira protests.
"People might realize what we are."

Other people nod.
"I don't think that's a good idea, Ham,"
Clarity says with a frown.

"Role Models in History is open,"
says Clement, pointing to the screen.
"That one is more discreet,
but might cover some of the same people
and definitely similar concepts."

"Yeah, that could work," I agree.
"We're spreading out a lot
in these other interests, though."


"Maybe it would help
if we chose a minor," I say.
"We haven't done that yet."

"Cinema Studies would support
our Theater major," says Clarity.

"I think we should branch out more,
so we can justify a wider range of classes,"
Maze points out. "Urban Studies
or Psychology could be useful."

"Those aren't much wider," Ham says.
"American Public Policy?" Clement asks.
Ham throws popcorn at him. "Too political."

I borrow the laptop from Clarity
to browse the list of minors.
"What about Gender Studies?" I suggest.
"It's interdisciplinary, so it should have
something for all of us."


I lift the laptop from Mira
and run a search.
"Hey, look, Ham," I say.
"Self-Defense for Women fits.
You and I would both love that."

"Me too," says Clement.
"Better defense means less work for me."

Clarity types it in, adding,
"Introduction to Mediation
sounds interesting too."

Maze and Mira both perk up.
"That could help avoid conflicts,"
Mira says, and Maze nods.


"All right, this sounds promising," I say.
"Does anyone have objections
to Gender Studies as our minor?"
Heads shake around the room.
"Okay, I'll fill out the forms for that."

"What's on our schedule now?"
Maze asks, crossing her legs.

"Theatre 110: Stage Makeup and Costume
and Theatre 102: The Greek Classics for our major,
Self-Defense for Women and
Introduction to Mediation for our minor,
First Aid 120: Trauma and Role Models in History
for general requirements," I explain,
showing the screen around.
"Does everyone like at least one of those?"

They all murmur agreement.
I look around the living room
in the house that is our head,
all of us cuddled together and
finally making decisions as a team.

We even found ways to balance
what we want individually and collectively
with the school's requirements,
and further our superhero goals.

We're getting good at this.

* * *


Choosing classes is an important part of college life. There are tips for selecting college classes in general and classes for next semester in particular. Balance choices between your major, minor if you have one, and general requirements. Many colleges offer a design-your-own-major program, although they often lie and won't actually let students do it. You can achieve much the same effect by picking whatever official program(s) you find to be closest, and then using general or interdisciplinary slots to tailor the classes to your real needs. Know what you want to do, then figure out what you need to learn in order to accomplish that.

Disguise is a useful application of makeup, especially for superheroes and actors. There are tips on how to disguise yourself and accomplish specific effects.

History is relevant to current events. Identity history and identity politics can play a huge role in what happens today. This applies to members of any identifiable group such as women, homosexuals, Jews -- or in Terramagne, people with superpowers.

Selecting a minor may compliment or contrast with your major. Think carefully before making a decision. There are many minors to choose from. Gender Studies (which used to be called Women's Studies, but has diversified over time) is interdisciplinary, which means it draws classes from many different departments. Interdisciplinary minors are the most flexible, and ideal if you're trying to study something the college doesn't want to recognize officially.

Self-defense for women focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of women's bodies and the particular situations they are most likely to face. Damask has the extra challenge of having one female body inhabited by several headmates of varying sexes, particularly since the most athletic one, Ham, is a man.

Becoming a superhero requires serious effort in terms of acquiring the basic skills such as fitness and first aid. Discretion is another useful cluster of skills. A superhero need not go looking for trouble -- there is plenty of trouble all around -- it is only necessary to be prepared for whatever happens. Anyone can do that. Of course, the tips are all aimed at traditional superheroes, most of whom specialize in combat. Damask is a lot more diverse, overlapping many ways you don't need superpowers to be a hero. We don't usually see this stuff in the comics, but the developmental phase of talent discovery and training will shape everything that comes after.

Group decision-making is a learned skill that benefits from careful management and planning. Understand how to make decisions together.

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7 comments or Leave a comment
siege From: siege Date: December 21st, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like this poem, and Damask as a character and family is definitely one of my favorites right now. I live in a university town, though I probably don't need a lot of foundational classes anymore, and I think this one is relevant to a lot of folks who feel like they just aren't prepared for life.

Even if you aren't in formal schooling, learning how to choose a direction for yourself is important, and there are a lot of options available now for learning related things.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 22nd, 2013 04:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> I like this poem, <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> and Damask as a character and family is definitely one of my favorites right now. <<

Yay! You can always ask for more about your favorites.

>> I live in a university town, though I probably don't need a lot of foundational classes anymore, and I think this one is relevant to a lot of folks who feel like they just aren't prepared for life. <<

Yes, that's true. Never stop learning. If you come across something you need to know that's new, you can always pick it up at the time.

>> Even if you aren't in formal schooling, learning how to choose a direction for yourself is important, <<

Some people are good at self-directed learning; I always have been. Other folks really need someone else to help them keep their focus. But you should at least be able to figure out what you like, are good at, and want to do.

>>and there are a lot of options available now for learning related things.<<

True. I love this. I think the universities are shooting themselves in the foot by raising prices and cutting services. People will figure out they don't need the paper, just the skills. All it's waiting for is business owners to hire on that basis.

It's great that so much information is more readily available now. I like being able to link to relevant resources when I'm writing something that touches on real-world topics.
natf From: natf Date: December 22nd, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Modular degrees seem to be the thing in the UK now as well despite degrees being predefined class-wise when I was at Uni in the later 80s. Back then you used to go to Uni to read a subject and the classes were prescribed by that subject. It still seems strange to me to read about choosing classes and a major/minor but, to be honest, it would have solved a lot of my problems in year two when I discovered that I had signed up to do a subject that I now hated and wanted nothing more to do with. As it was I had to suck it up and graduate (BSc Biochemistry) and then do a conversion MSc (Information Technology). I discovered in my second year at York for the BSc that I could have done BSc Maths there with the A Level grades I had (which is what I had wanted to do since I was about ten) despite being told at the 6th form college that I did the A Levels at that I needed different A Levels to do BSc Maths. Huh.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 22nd, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)


More flexibility in education is generally a good idea. It would be a lot easier if people wouldn't lie about the options so much.
thnidu From: thnidu Date: July 12th, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad to see the family improving their skills, especially the intrapersonal ones.

• Selecting a minor may compliment or contrast with your major.
→ complement
starcat_jewel From: starcat_jewel Date: October 31st, 2014 04:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh. Re-reading this right after "Amateur Night" and in the course of going thru the entire series -- is Dr. Feldstein the one who wouldn't write Farce a rec?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: October 31st, 2014 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)


That's him, all right. He knows the material but is not very good at teaching, and he can be kind of a dick. Every college tends to have some teachers like this.
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