I have a brain loaded with beautifully useless information. Eighties song lyrics, for example, I'm your man.
And when it comes to things that really matter, I'm constantly amazed to realize the majestic height, breadth and depth of what I don't know.
When they held a DREAM Iowa town meeting in Storm Lake last weekend, one of the chief concerns was how the immigrant students in Storm Lake would be able to afford college.
You know about the DREAMers - that group of young people who were brought into the U.S. illegally as young children, grew up here, attended our schools, as American as any of their classmates.
Through no fault of their own, they are caught in limbo.
A Congress that can't manage to see any value in them has assured that they have no means of earning U.S. citizenship, not even a hope of it.
If not for the recent temporary protection of DACA, they couldn't even work legally, or have a driver's license.
It's one of the tragic social oversights of our generation, and we should be embarrassed that we permit it.
I knew that these students couldn't apply for any government scholarships or grants, or even the federally-backed student loans that help their classmates manage to get into school. As a parent, it's not hard to imagine how that makes their families feel.
What I didn't know, until people at this meeting said so, was that not one of our three state universities permit DREAMer students to apply as in-state students, or even the higher-cost out-of-state status.
They have to apply, at an oscene cost, as "foreign" students!
A teenager who has spent the last 16 years growing up in Storm Lake schools is foreign? The same as a student from Japan or Germany if they pursue education in Ames, Iowa City or Cedar Falls?
Do I feel like a jackass for not being aware of this? Better believe it. The only thing worse would be knowing it and being silent.
I graduated from one of those universities. My son attends that same university. And I am not proud that it hasn't done anything about this. Where is our Board of Regents? Where are our legislators?
The DREAM students haven't done anything wrong. If they achieve, or aspire, they should have an opportunity. And if we stand in the way, who are we hurting but ourselves and the future of our own communities?
In all of the discussion Saturday, no one one asked for a break for their kids. Not a handout, not a free ride.
All they asked is that their state give their sons and daughters the chance to go to college as an in-state student, just like the other kids they have grown up with and attended school with.
Someone, please, explain what we are afraid of.
Are we afraid of educating smart, promising young people, who hopefully will go on to productive careers and to raise families in a state that without them is graying and lacking in growth?
Explain: we're going around the world trying to recruit foreign students to come to our state universities, when we have promising students right here who are hungry for education, that we don't act like we want.
Someday, we will have leaders who are not bitter, vindictive and short-sighted, who won't hold down a whole group of human beings just to get themselves re-elected by an equally fearful electorate.
Someday, we won't think twice about making sure that every Iowa student has a fair opportunity to aspire to college in Iowa.
The DREAM Act is a big issue, I get that. It will take time. Maybe it will take replacement of a generation of politicians to get there.
But this... this is bite-size, this is do-able. We can fix this. We can make a difference in young lives. And we can do it before another class of Iowa students has to make the terrible choice of whether or not to give up on a dream of college.
Add a box on the college application. "Undocumented Iowa resident qualifying for in-state tuition."
Let's be the state that does the right thing.
Now we know. And the question becomes - what are we going to do about it?