B.A., Psychology, San Diego State University (1966)
M.A., Psychology, San Diego State University (1969)
Instructor, Grossmont College (1969 - Present)
Psychology 120 (Introductory Psychology)
Psychology 130 (Psychology of Individual Adjustment)
Psychology 180 (Psychology of Interpersonal Skills)
CSIS 177C (Presentation Graphics)
I was born in San Diego, just after the entry of the United States into World War Two. My mother told the story that she and my father named me "Victor" because they wanted victory in the war.
I cherish the photo you see to the left because my mother said it was my first experience of seeing my own reflection in a mirror. Seeing oneself honestly and with depth—insight, enlightenment, self-awareness—is valued by psychologists such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Eugene Gendlin and is no doubt one of the most difficult and painful steps toward psychological maturity. In some ways this self-study is behind my poem, Butterscotch Eyes.
After half a year at a Kindergarten Parochial school (see the Prelude to Oh Divine Lobotomy), I spent my earliest years attending Garfield Elementary School. After losing in my first attempt to run for class president, in my second I was at last elected. It could well have been a sympathy vote. After trying to adjust the microphone during a speech, I lost my grip and the microphone flew upward, painfully slamming against my forehead with a thud audible through the speaker system. The children's giggles and laughter still echo in my ears (which surely turned bright red).
By the sixth grade I was actively checking out library books on the atom, atomic bombs, and nuclear fission, subjects that—along with flying saucers—fed my hungry imagination. My plan was to become an atomic scientist. A caring teacher fostered my intellect by challenging me with assignments in algebra.
In my early teen years at Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, I learned to play the piano and joined the Glee Club, a class where boys sang together and performed at school assemblies. With friends I created and was elected president of the “World Investigators of Saucer Phenomena,” our own club to scientifically study UFOs. We knew our ambitions far exceeded our years, but oh those WISP meetings were so much fun. My memories of these meetings, and other adolescent adventures of that time, took fire in the memoir I titled A Cupp and a Saucer. My junior high school years persuaded me that whatever course my major field of study took, I was sure I wanted to teach.
I spent my high school years at Herbert Hoover High School, where I continued my interest in science by taking courses in chemistry, physics, math, and German, a language I had been told would prepare me for college courses in physics. I completed one year of Russian, attracted by two thoughts: I was curious about America's Cold War rival, and I found humor in the way the teacher spit as he spoke Russian. Sadly, the stadium and auditorium and bell tower and stately buildings of that campus that introduced me to the world of grown-ups have long ago been demolished, replaced by far what today look to me like auto shop buildings.
On graduating from high school I immediately enrolled at San Diego State University (then called San Diego State College) and majored in physics, hoping to pursue a career in nuclear physics. I took Physics 4A, the first of three courses required of majors, three times in succession—earning F, F, and D. I had wanted to study atoms, but the road to that advanced topic began with a study of dynamics, a subject that bored me. I recall fading out of that first course, on each of my three attempts, when we were assigned to calculate the path of a cockroach crawling across a rotating Lazy Susan. I wasn't sure what a Lazy Susan was. But whatever it was, I knew it wasn't an atom, and I had no interest whatsoever in calculating that cockroach path.
I changed my major to “undeclared” and wandered among general education courses for one to two semesters, eventually seeking guidance from a college counselor. He gave me a vocational test today called the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, which showed my highest interest to be in psychology—a finding that astounded me. Introductory Psychology was the only exposure I'd had to the subject, where I earned an unimpressive grade of C in a course that barely caught my attention.
On the counselor's recommendation, I took a second course in psychology, Abnormal Psychology. Taught by a psychodynamically oriented professor, the subject fascinated me. To be able to peer below the surface of mental disorders and even everyday behaviors, and see invisible desires and fantasies churning away in an unconscious mind—this was as much fun as looking at tables and chairs and seeing the invisible atoms that vibrate inside them.
I immediately changed my major to psychology and went on to earn my Bachelor’s degree after six years, and my Master’s degree after three more years, of study. In graduate school I was exposed to behavioral and humanistic psychology, alternatives to the psychodynamic view that had first turned me toward the subject. Though I valued the scientific basis of the behavioral approach (see B. F. Skinner), the psychodynamic approach (see Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung) still fascinated me and the humanistic approach (see Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Eugene Gendlin) touched my heart.
The year was 1969. Prepared to continue on to obtain my Ph.D., I found Grossmont College had an immediate opening for a temporary psychology position, replacing an instructor who had gone on Sabbatical leave. I couldn't resist the opportunity to actually teach the subject I’d grown to love rather than merely study it further, so I applied for the position and was accepted. After a semester of teaching, a permanent position in psychology was opened, for which I applied and was again accepted.
After teaching a blend of psychology and sociology courses, I was assigned to teach the subject of psychology alone—Psychology 120 (Introductory Psychology) and Psychology 130 (the Psychology of Individual Adjustment).
Like the latter 1960s, the early 1970s was a period of social unrest and student enthusiasm (matching the internal unrest I was experiencing, such as I describe in Last Wednesday I Walked on the Beach). Students brought their dogs with them to the classroom and spoke eagerly of how they were excited to be part of “The Revolution.” They were sure they would change the world. Some call the 1970s the period of the “Me Generation” because so many focused their attention on personal growth and enlightenment. It was the time of encounter and sensitivity groups, run by “facilitators” who were proud to identify with the “Human Potential” movement. It seemed to be the decade of Psychology.
By the 1980s, psychology had grown into what was perhaps the most popular major. Still inspired by humanistic psychology and its founder, Carl Rogers, I had by this time created Psychology 180 (the “Psychology of Interpersonal Skills”). Students in this course were practicing the skill of listening empathically to one another in class, video- and audio-recording themselves and rating their performance. They were excited to find that this intense and personal way of attending to people's feelings brought life and self-discovery to their relationships with their friends, family, lovers, and spouses.
In the 1990s I continued to teach Psychology 120, Psychology 130, and my favorite, Psychology 180. Where students and faculty of earlier years had gravitated toward the inner world of the psyche, however, those of this period were gripped by the outer world, where they found prejudice and discrimination. The twin dogmas of diversity and affirmative action seized the public mind—and especially the thinking of the University—stifling thought, behavior, and language that were deemed “politically incorrect.” Hiring of faculty, and the search for students, were ruled by one chief aim: favor women and persons of color (see Celebrate Diversity!).
Where I had before felt at home in an academic world that looked on all—male and female, black, brown, or whatever skin color—as equal, I now felt alienated in the realm of academia, where to be white and male was disfavored (see I Resign From Hiring Committee). Where the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s had sought to create a “color-blind” and gender-free world, the 1990s purposefully intensified and trained awareness of skin color, gender, and ethnicity (see Diversity Mania). One was to be proud to be a woman or to be black or brown, Asian or Native American—but never proud to be a man or white. The evils of white and male pride had been replaced by the evils of (non-white) racial, (non-European and non-Anglo) ethnic, and (non-male) gender pride. Yet my colleagues and the world at large regarded this as a good thing (see Positive on Affirmative Action).
And so it was by the first decade of the 21st century that I knew I was nearing the end of my full-time career as an instructor of psychology. Though surrounded by faculty, staff, and students who were fixated on gender, color, and ethnicity, I found that I was still able to carve out in the classroom my own little world where these irrelevancies to what makes us human could be ignored. Out on the campus, surrounded by the walking cookie-cutter categories of gender, race, and ethnicity posing as human beings, I am alone (see What's Wrong With Diversity?). I have given up reaching out to humanoid vapors where touch and encounter are impossible (see The Unbridgeable Gulf and study the deep thinking of Martin Buber). I come alive again in the classroom, where if my students and I are fortunate we break free of categories and thrive in a world where human meets human.
On June 30 of 2006, I retired from full-time teaching. I continue to teach Psychology 120, and occasionally Psychology 180, as an adjunct instructor on a part-time basis. I continue to enjoy teaching and the excitement of seeing eyes that open wide in new understandings.