A Compromised Education

In 1995, Octavia Butler would publish Bloodchild and Other Stories, a collection of short stories. The titular “Bloodchild” is a science fiction tale set on a distant planet. The core of this story is the nature of accommodation in relationships. The humans on this planet have arrived as refugees and are now treated as second class citizens by the T’lic, the planet’s natives. “Bloodchild” chooses to demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of the Terrans’ relationships with the T’lic by way of focusing on an intimate family story of Gan, a Terran child, and T’Gatoi, a T’lic. Throughout the story, more of the ins and outs of these relationships is revealed and the audience understands its deep flaws and tentative strengths. The tale opens on what seems a relatively normal evening, as T’Gatoi makes herself a welcome guest in Gan’s mother’s house, as the two are close friends. T’Gatoi brings with her Sterile Eggs, which provide a similar effect to alcohol when consumed and lengthen the lifespan of Terrans. This evening is interrupted by the arrival of another Terran, a man named Bram Lomas. Lomas, it is revealed, is the host to infantile T’lic grubs. The T’lic are a species which require another organism to host their grubs, similar to the botflies which partially inspired this story. With the native inhabitants of this planet evolving more resilience to the T’lic grubs, the T’lic population was threatened. It was not until the arrival of the Terrans that the T’lic had suitable hosts once more. In order to save the lives of both Bram Lomas and the T’lic infants, T’Gatoi and Gan must perform an emergency operation. Gan grows horrified watching the process, thinking “I felt I was helping her torture him, helping her consume him” (Butler 1995, page 15). Through this baptism in fire, Gan gains a much greater understanding of the nature of his world. It is revealed to the audience that Gan is meant to host T’Gatoi’s offspring, a truth that he now dreads after viewing the mutilation of Lomas. Gan takes a gun, which the T’lic have outlawed, and threatens to kill himself. It is only when T’Gatoi threatens to implant the eggs inside Gan’s sister Hoa, that Gan relents and accepts his role as a host. He manages to talk T’Gatoi into allowing the family to keep possession of the firearm. As T’Gatoi inserts her eggs into Gan, the two discuss the flaws of their compromises. T’Gatoi tells Gan “I have never known a Terran to see a birth and take it well” (Butler, 1995, page 28). Gan remarks that If Terrans were shown a birth go as planned, they would be less apprehensive. T’Gatoi replies with the dogma that they have always been kept private previously. Gan thinks to himself that should she change her mind he may be the first public example and stays his hand.

“Bloodchild” is a story that is defined by its compromises. The two major compromises at play are the larger agreements between the T’lic and Terrans, and the smaller proxy relationship “Bloodchild” focuses on, between T’Gatoi and Gan. While set on an alien world, the act of compromising itself is innately human. Compromising can be seen in every facet of daily life, including attending a college. The way for a college education to be most successful is through the agreements and accommodations made by all those involved. Much like how the status quo between T’lic and Terrans is flawed if the two groups do not communicate with one another, a student’s experience in college will be made more difficult if they do not communicate and come to agreements with those around them.

The story of “Bloodchild” opens with an accommodation. T’Gatoi gifts Gan and his family with two Sterile Eggs. Given that they produce a similar effect to a T’lic sting, it is fully reasonable for the audience to interpret the Sterile Eggs as being a product that the T’lic produce with their body, and then T’Gatoi gifted this to Gan in order for him to become strong enough to carry her offspring. She even praises how he is able to gain weight (Butler, 1995, pages 3-4). To boil this down to its most basic parts, T’Gatoi is exerting herself to ensure that Gan is able to grow. The physical growth that T’Gatoi is concerned with may be seen as a parallel that colleges seek to nurture. When Attending a college, that college will provide its students with professors to educate the students and strengthen their brains, similar to how Gan is being strengthened to carry T’Gatoi’s young. While the students are not expected to bear children for the college the way Gan is for T’Gatoi, there is a way that they will repay the college beyond financial means. A successful student base will bring prestige to the college. This will feed into a cycle which attracts more students to the institution, ensuring that its legacy will live on, which parallels the way Gan will ensure that T’Gatoi’s lineage will continue. In “Bloodchild,” the Terrans are not allowed to possess firearms, as they had used these weapons to wage war against the T’lic in the past. Gan’s family possesses several, regardless. When T’Gatoi discovers one, she demands it be turned over. Gan refuses, claiming that she must accept the risk as it is outweighed by the benefits (Butler, 1995, page 26). This bears many similarities to the way in which many colleges turn a blind eye to the social life of their students. Students would perform better academically if they did not stay out late partying and instead spent that time focused on studying. However, schools instead permit the existence of fraternal organizations to enable students to find balance. While these activities can be potentially dangerous to the student body and in turn the school’s reputation, they enable the students to unwind, and offset burnout. The schools have accepted the adult nature of their students and in turn the risks that are associated. Gan and T’Gatoi continue their growth as T’Gatoi tells Gan she may have to put her eggs in his sister as she couldn’t put her “children into the care of one who hates them” (Butler, 1995, page 28). This vetting process parallels the admission that colleges have. Similarly to how T’Gatoi does not want her offspring to be growing in a toxic environment, colleges will seek to build a healthy student body that will not be dangerous to itself. Students will need to build multifaceted lives that involve activities such as sports and community service in addition to academic success to be admitted. The college in turn provides students with resources such as counseling and therapy to ensure the continued mental well-being of its students. When Gan eventually comes to the conclusion that it would be best for him to host T’Gatoi’s young, the two begin to have a more open dialogue. Gan makes the argument that many Terrans are afraid of hosting eggs because they only see what happens when things go wrong, such as in the case of Bram Lomas. If they were shown proper births they would be more comfortable with the relationship. T’Gatoi responds that the birthing has always been a private affair. Gan remains silent but remarks to himself that he at least put the thought in her head (Butler, 1995, page 28-29). This resembles conversations that many students may have with their professors. In college, the reason that students are there is to learn and teachers are there to teach them. Many professors are open to dialogue with their students about academic difficulties. Although the larger system may support a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and grading, professors will frequently make exceptions for students who ask. Extensions on late assignments and opportunities to make up exams are some of the more prominent examples. After a conversation, many professors are able to find compromise with their students.

Entering college can be a daunting experience for many students. Even the sizes of larger high schools are dwarfed by the sheer number of people in a college setting and due to this it can seem that college will be an emotionless experience in which students will not be cared for by their professors or the greater college administration, this could not be farther from the truth. Once a student takes the proper steps to reach out to those around them, they will see college in a new, more welcoming way. Despite the structure of many colleges being that of a business, they still function best when there is compromise. In the fictional story of “Bloodchild,” the best way for the T’Lic and Terrans, two peoples in completely different positions in life, is for them to compromise, make mutually beneficial sacrifices, and accommodate one another. This fictional tale is paralleled by the real story that professors and students experience every day as they work to help one another to the best of their abilities.

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