College: Not Just For Students Anymore

As I write this I am sitting in Panera listening to two women talk about their college visits from last summer and their children’s looming college choice. Now, maybe this is a conversation I am picking up half way through, and the topic in the car on the way over was academics, and programs, and heady stuff like that. But all they are talking about now is the poor quality of the dorm rooms they saw.

I guess it’s not breaking news that amenities are the new guide to college choice. But this is the first time I’ve been faced with the fact. I’m not sure what to say; pathetic? Sad? Certainly nuts. How in heaven’s name does a soft-serve ice-cream dispenser available every day in the cafeteria trump…seemingly anything? Bunk beds matter more than language requirements?

It pains me to hear students basing probably the first major choice of their young lives on what kind of chair they will be sitting in for the next year, whether or not the cafeteria has a gluten free option every day, the size of the dresser drawers in a room.

What pains me even more is to hear their mothers talking about these things. I’m wondering at what point it is today that parents think it’s time to pull back and let their kids look and judge for themselves. That their jobs as parents is to get them to look at important things and not trivial things. Good luck with that I guess.

Doonesbury, a source than which there is no higher, did a cartoon a while ago, the punch line of which had a student at freshman orientation unable to tie his shoes.

Someone told me recently that companies today are being forced to develop and institute policies about parent involvement in their hiring practices for new employees. Apparently even in the business/professional world today parents are feeling obligated to involve themselves in their children’s lives. That’s not just pathetic, that’s creepy.

I blame Mister Rogers. He’s the one I remember first telling every carpet crawler, every linoleum lizard that “You’re special; there’s no one like you.” No. Mozart was special; there was no one like him. Jeremy Bentham was special; there was no one like him. Most of us are just normal, average. Many people are like us, and we are like all of them. But that’s OK. So between Mister Rogers and many of you parents we are creating and have created a generation of “adults” who can’t tie their own shoes, who look for ice cream before a solid humanities program. But I guess that’s OK, because who wants to disengage anyway? They are your children after all, and you get to live your college years over again this way.

How cool is that?

1 comment to College: Not Just For Students Anymore

  • Cujo Holm

    Oh, David. Never change.

    Mister Rogers (as I think you know) based his television persona on his extensive studies in music, child development, and the Presbyterian ministry… studies he completed in (dun-dun!) college. Some of us remember him, and the Quakerly lessons he taught us, with great fondness.

    A student with celiac disease might find the cafeteria’s gluten-free options a very salient factor in their college education–it’s hard to study a foreign language when you’re experiencing “le choc anaphylactique”.

    But on what I think is the main idea hiding here, I agree. An involved, active parent is a boon to a child’s education–to a point. It’s the job of the parent to gradually cede control to the child, so that they can become an adult. I guess some parents have a hard time discerning when to push and when to step back. There oughta be some classes about that.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>