Monday, July 17, 2006

You went to college why?

The new University of California campus in Merced opened last year, and apparently part of the first freshman class is already ready to bail:
"In college, you want to meet different people, but there were only 800 of us, so after the first month, we all knew each other. It was like summer camp. There are no sport teams and nothing was established, and there is no tradition. It is not the college experience you hear about."
I won't use the young lady's name; I don't need to, you can find it in the article in the San Francisco Chronicle, right here. I realize she's only 19, but honestly, what has she been reading? Nancy Drew books? Did it not occur to her that you go to college to get an education? To broaden your mind and learn to think? Possibly even to prepare for a job somewhere? (That last point didn't occur to me until my senior year in English literature, but that's another issue.)

This young lady evidently went to college intending to party hearty. I'm impressed with her ability to remember (and immediately get bored with) 800 people, too - there were 750 in my high school graduating class and I remember maybe a dozen of them. (This is because I ran into them again at the reunion last week. Of course, high school was a few years ago.)

I have a dreadful feeling that all this means that she just hasn't met Mr. Right yet. I keep waiting for her to complain that she'll never get her M.R.S. in this dull school. I thought the feminist movement had taught us to look beyond marriage as the single goal of any young female.

The real statement about college is, what you get out of it is directly related to what you put into it, like most experiences of value. If all this young woman is willing to put into it is rooting for sports teams and participating in rituals that would be more evidently silly if they weren't so old, she's not going to get much out, even if she does transfer. But then, maybe I'm expecting too much from a 19 year old. I also hope that, if she does leave this new campus of my alma mater (full disclosure, but the campus was Berkeley), her place will be taken by someone who will really benefit from what the University of California has to offer.


  1. Anonymous7:25 AM

    I think you could say the same thing about life, that you get out of it what you put into it. Unfortunately the rising generation seems to just want to put in the bare minimum and pay for the rest with their credit card.

    I remember in a sociology class in college being told that adolescence now goes until about 28. That students will go to school and then spend a couple of years back packing across Europe or something. My response was "How do I sign up for that program?" We seem to have raised a generation of eternal children.

  2. Anonymous8:48 PM

    A startup campus with only 800 students? Sounds kind of intriguing to me. Question I have is Why in hell did she enroll in a college that meets none of her definitions of college? Did she not know?


    We have a president who has been described on more than one occasion as an adolescent, and an adolescent who is surprisingly uncurious (he's also a boor, of course, but that's another issue).

    Backpacking across Europe is a positive form of adolescence, if indeed it is defined as an adolescent quality, so I'm with you on that one.

    Anonymous Adolescent Wannabee David

  3. Anonymous David, the same question (why enroll if it doesn't meet your requirements?) occurred to me and I don't have an answer.

    What I want to know about these years backpacking in Europe is: who pays for it? I don't care if you stay in hostels, they still want money, and you have to eat, and it isn't free, even if you can do it on $50 a day (my guesstimate of the current value of the old "Europe on $10 a day" books).

    I suppose stephen is right and it all goes on the credit card. I'm just beginning to realize the gap between me and the current generation caused by the fact that general credit cards didn't exist until I was about 25...

  4. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Perhaps, we could assume the young lady applied to this school as a "safety," or her parents guided her into to because it was close to home? Then there is always the possibility that, at her 19, she doesn't know what else to do with her life, and going to college means your parents won't insist you get a full time job and support yourself, and besides, college is fun.

    I've got one for you. This summer, may I never again accede to the request I teach summer session, I had a very nice young man in one of my classes who was just out of high school. To say he did poorly is diplomatic.

    He came up to me near the end of the session to explain he wasn't passing, and it was my fault. This promised to provide comic relief in an otherwise ordinary day, so I politely, with concerned sincerity, asked for clarification. According to this eyes-wide-shut 18 year old, when he flunked a test in high school he was allowed to retake it until he passed. Since I did not offer that option, he had no way of knowing exactely what to study, and he didn't like to waste time studying in a general sense without a specific guideline.

    I agreeded with him that I was uncompromising, shook my head sadly, (My ability to keep this conversation from resembling a staged farce was beginning to wane.), and told him I feared fall semester might be just as awkward. The math folks, I informed him with a voice coddling care, might let him retake a test or two, but I wasn't sure. I didn't think anyone else would. He then asked, somewhat indignantly, how anyone could pass under such conditions.

    Then, believe it or not, another student waiting to speak to me, said something along the lines of: Yeah, I had to learn that the hard way, too. (Upstaged!)

    Now, let me put this in perspective. These young men, and women, too, had diplomas from US high schools. The class was remedial reading for those reading on a 4th to possibly 7th grade level. We have opened teritary education to one and all - a good thing. There are many of these one and all who come from non-academic backgrounds. They don't have a clue what college is about, except for the odd hollywood movie. It is a bumpy ride to maturity and a possible degree. Back in the bad old days when I was an undergrad, the majority of these folk never got near a college campus.

    I don't know the statistics, but I suspect there are quite a number who never earn a degree. Still, I am willing to bet, when they are parents of college possible children, they will feel their brief, unfinished college career was a good thing in their lives. They may also, possibly, send off to college children who do have an idea of what it's all about.

    Oh, and in a sense of honesty, I remember some honking good parties in my undergrad days.

  5. Boggart, your student absolutely slays me! Words fail me (which doesn't happen often!).

    It leads you to wonder nervously about the 9% or so who didn't get diplomas because they failed the exam, if these are the ones who did...