Finneran: Good News
Friday, September 14, 2018
From totalitarian thought control, “hate speech” codes, “safe spaces”, pathetically weak administrators, mealy-mouthed presidents, laughable majors, absurd “studies” programs, and pampered faculty, it’s pretty close to a direct insult to parents and students alike.
I don’t expect anything but obnoxious silliness from most eighteen and nineteen-year-olds. They will bend to any breeze and follow the paths of least resistance. Which means that they’re suckers for the prevailing nonsense of the moment, at any hour of the day or night. They are an illiterate mob in waiting, eager to correct everyone else’s perceived sins.
The poor parents are simply snowed. They’ve been brainwashed into thinking that little Johnny and little Susie simply must go to college in order to have any kind of meaningful life. Not true. They are also intimidated into an abject silence when Johnny and Susie are ordered to show up in August for sensitivity training on absurdities such as intersectionality and pronouns. And when I say, “the poor parents”, I really mean it. They are officially poor for the next several years, having paid prodigious sums for what amounts to minimal scholastic value. They should ask the faculty facilitators to give up the brainwashing and to assign the works of Shakespeare for student orientation. Now that’s hate speech!
Yet lo and behold! Amidst the smoking ruins of higher education appears a ray or two of hope.
Frank Bruni, a New York Times opinion writer, had a recent column about St. John’s College, a dual campus school with a serious study program focused upon real subjects—i.e.—the much belittled Western canon. The college’s two campuses are located in Annapolis, Maryland and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bruni’s column is worthy of your time.
Bruni is not only impressed by the very weighty and quite traditional curriculum. He is equally impressed by the students’ ability to hold and seriously discuss a particular thought. He finds their sustained focus on a concept or an idea in this age of “digital devices and social media” and instantaneous “wisdom” most reassuring.
Additionally, Bruni sees the humility of the students as a sign of hope for our “my way or the highway” social wars. He sees students who let go of their initial opinions as questions are asked. Rather than the headlong pursuit of the “best answer” he sees students striving to ask “better questions”. The lesson here of course is about life’s many ambiguities. Perhaps our self-sure cable news talking heads should enroll. Humility is not their forte. Nor ambiguity.
And get this.......
The college is giving up what it calls “prestige pricing”. It is actually lowering tuition from $ 52,000/year to $ 35,000/year! Strike up the band. Parents take heart.
Bruni titled his column “America’s Contrarian College”. Perhaps there’ll be more contrarian colleges to spring up. Let’s hope so.
As the children of the baby-boomers have matriculated, the demographic demand for college is in major decline. With today’s young families having fewer children, the nation’s colleges are facing unfamiliar challenges. Serious competition looms.
Out of such competition might we recover a more serious sense of the purpose of college? Might we see more academic rigor and less pampering? I can see it now....bye, bye sushi bars. Hello mac and cheese. Bye, bye brie. Hello meatloaf.
And words most magical of all---"I’m going to the library. I have a lot of reading tonight”.
Hooray for the contrarians. Hooray for good news.
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