Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on the current state of college campuses

I've spent some time this fall on the campus of my undergraduate alma mater, which has been interesting in a lot of ways. I remember this campus as a sea of bricks, bright, too stark for my taste, and a place where I felt initially overwhelmed, then later more confident. I changed majors early on, from pre-vet to English, and in the English department I found a home. Kindred spirits. Professors I respected and admired. 

These days Life Sciences is a more personal department, and there are more trees, and shade, and the pale red of the bricks is muted by green.

Being here as an older woman I find myself at times appreciative of the kindness of students - they often hold the door for me, seem courteous for the most part, and have been helpful in moments when my iPad was nearing no battery and I couldn't find a working electrical outlet. In the library I seem to be a magnet for students who want someone to watch their belongings while they run to the restroom. But I also hear tales from my daughter about what students say about professors under their breaths during class, how they conspire to cheat and get by with as little work possible, and seem not to care much at all about the education they're paying for. (Or not, as the case may be)

I overheard a girl in the restroom bemoaning the fact that she has to pay for her own birth control while wearing $70 jeans. (I was inspired by the fact that the girl's friend pointed out her $70 jeans in response to the whine about paying for birth control!)  I walk past shrieking fundamentalist Christian preachers here to take full advantage of freedom of speech, shouting about sin and judgment day, standing beside huge posters of aborted fetuses. I am not sure freedom of speech covers what they're doing, but they're allowed here and while I have Tweeted my discontent at having to listen to them I expect they'll remain.

This week two students posted hate-filled racist and sexist statements on an "underground" forum. Their posts were captured and reposted on social media which set off a small uprising on campus against their behavior, calling for their expulsion as students. The chancellor has declined to do that. Meanwhile I ponder what they're even doing here, in this place of higher learning. I'm continually surprised to encounter so many examples of that not being the case.

Mostly I'm inspired by the fact that the two college students I know best are avid learners who appreciate their professors and the opportunities afforded by their university communities. I'm proud that they care more about their classes than basketball games and that I will never have to worry about them making racist comments on forums or otherwise. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

I find the attitudes of most of this younger generation selfish and rude beyond belief. And you know what, I do blame their home environment and how they were brought up and the values they were taught at home. Because if you're taught how to live with morals and taught how to be a caring individual mindful of others feelings there would be no underground nonsense, no cyber bullying, no shootings etc. unfortunately I think most of the parents are as bad as the kids they brought up. And I'm not just saying this because I'm old either. I grew up in the sixties and did my fair share of things that were frowned upon by the older generation. But I never did anything to hurt someone else and was never rude to teachers etc. just a different set of values I guess. Back then I don't think there was one teenager who would ever think of bringing a gun to school much less shoot innocent children. I wonder if all the violent video games they play constantly devalues human life so much shootings are unreal to them.

Okay, that's enough of my rant, I could go on for pages. I'm proud of all three of my kids too and of the unselfish caring adults they became. People tell me I'm "lucky" to have such good kids. I tell them "luck" had nothing to do with it, it was a lot of hard work.

billie said...

Feel free to rant on!

You reminded me with your mention of violent video games. There are areas in the library with huge screens where students can hook up and play their computer games. I was completely weirded out a few weeks ago when a student was playing one in which he hunted down and killed zombies. The zombies were extremely realistic and very human. The game showed very realistic hands and forearms of the player reaching forward with his gun and club as he killed them - shooting them down at close range and then clubbing them in the face. What happened when he used the club was also very realistic. Wounds appeared and blood gushed and spattered. I was absolutely horrified by this and felt like in any sane world anyone playing this game would be viewed as dangerous. The next week I saw the same student playing a game in which he stole babies from what appeared to be alien mothers in tanks.

I have to add - yesterday I saw a group of six or seven young men playing what looked like Super Mario Brothers. That was a welcome sight.

I wonder sometimes if I am getting old and crotchety but it astounds me to see how many students walk around with earplugs in, completely oblivious to the world around them. As much as I applaud technology, I do think it's completely changing the way we behave and interact. Whether the good outweighs the negative, I'm just not sure. I guess that's to be monitored as we move on.

Matthew said...

A really insightful summary.

billie said...

Thanks for reading! :)