My apologies to all of the college students out there that actually do think. It's just that I haven't had the priviledge of meeting you.
James Lileks has a wonderful screed today. He tears apart a survey of college students that show that they pretty much have their heads up their butts (you can find the survey here).
I tried to go to college twenty years ago. After trying for a few years to pay the bills at home AND pay for classes, I decided that starving wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Starting a career and eating regular has a certain appeal, and so I went that route.
A few years ago I met an aged couple. We hit it off, and they asked me to be the executor of their will. As a "Thank you" they're bankrolling my return to college. So here I am, a 38 year old undergraduate at one of America's largest universities (Ohio State University). There are a few things that are painfully obvious to this old man.
First off is that the kids around me really want to do good. They're concerned about their fellow man, they want justice and freedom to prevail, and they're really concerned with protecting the helpless from the powerful. All of these are good things.
Unfortunately, almost all of the ones I've met haven't developed the ability to reason. Just as an example, a recent rally at my school was protesting guns. The organizers of said rally pushed all of the right buttons by stating that "Every 23 seconds a child is killed in the United States by a gun!" The kids they were talking to really got behind the effort to end this injustice, even scrawling the message on the campus sidewalks. But none of them thought to ask just HOW MANY children would be killed in a year if there's more than two a minute. None of them thought to ask what that would do to the population if so many were dying.
Asking the question doesn't help. The few students that I asked just stood there, staring off in to space, doing the math over and over again in their heads. Unil they would finally just ignore the figures they were getting and insist that I wanted to slaughter children because I was in favor of gun ownership. (Considering that about 1.4 million children would die every year if a child died every 23 seconds, I'm WAY behind my quota)
There are those out there that are explaining this away right now. "But they're just kids!" some are saying. "Still wet behind the ears. Just a few months from high school, just out of their parent's basement for a few weeks. Give them some time to develop in to thoughful adults. Going to college is just the thing to teach them critical thinking skills."
I agree that they'll develop in to thinking people eventually (most of them, anyway). But I'm not yet convinced that college is the place to nurture these skills. One of my professors trotted out the old chesnut about how women only make 70 cents for every dollar that a man earns. When I asked if his wife (another professor) made less than he did he explained that Universities were special places, where such injustices would never be allowed by the enlightened and concerned (ie: liberal) administration. I pointed out that the police HAD to be just as enlightened and concerned, since female police officers earned just as much as their male colleagues. Then my professor just sat there, staring off in to space, stunned by the idea that THE MAN would actually have an "equal pay for equal work" policy.
So far I'm having a ball, but I do have to admit that it's a rather surreal experience. The whole place is overrun by people who never had to immerse themselves in the real world. But I'm sure that I can find someone who, like myself, actually had to question some basic assumptions.
All I have to do is follow the trail of the people staring off in to space with stunned expressions on their faces.