Monday, September 3, 2012

College Kids Today!

Kids today. When I went to college, we were forced to spend 23 hours per day in a dirty cell
(they called it a "dorm room"), surrounded by the corpses of previous students who couldn't survive their freshman year. If we got anything below a ninety-percent on a test, we were made to lick the bottom of the professor's shoes clean. If we were lucky, he'd forget to step into his personal kitty litter pan full of poisonous dust, before-hand. We used to study twenty eight hours a day, standing up, with a seventy-five pound backpack full of every volume of the Oxford English Dictionary on our shoulders -- barefoot, and on broken glass (dipped in mercury).

If we ever tried to call our parents, the dorm room phones would shoot steel spikes into our ears. If we went to the campus doctor about it, he'd say, "Serves you right for being weak, cretin," and he would make us wash his car and then drive his son to soccer practice. On Mars.

You tell this to the kids today, and they don't believe you.

Seriously, though, I was thinking about how different it is for kids, now, when they go to college, than is was for me in the eighties -- and before me, too. On Facebook, I am friends with some of my graduated students, and I often see them communicating with each other -- sending video clips and hellos and pictures of their new dorm rooms -- and I can see very clearly how different things are for them.

I remember feeling scared and isolated when I was left at college. I'm sure they feel that way, too -- my former students -- but it must be really nice to be able to have "Face Time" with the kid you sat with in lunch during senior year. It must be cool to be able to text mom or dad to ask about sorting laundry or just to say "I miss you."

Truth is, if I called home back then, it cost me, big time -- charged to my dorm phone. Usually, I waited for my mom and dad to call, but that didn't help me when I couldn't remember where to pour the fabric softener.

Well, it all raises the usual question: is this better or worse? Were we more able to function on our own because we were forced to?

Who knows? But one thing is for sure: I'm glad my former students have a lifeline when they need one. It may be wrong, but it makes me worry less about them.

In approximately one week, my email inbox will be flooded with requests for proof readings of Composition 101 papers, from across the country. It makes for a busy September. But, you know, by November, the requests just stop...


  1. What I wonder is whether diminishing the rite-of-passage aspect of leaving home for the first time will turn out to be particularly bad for introverts, shy kids, and others who need a more jarring experience to teach them how to stand on their own two feet. I also wonder whether kids who need to reinvent themselves in a new setting are increasingly hindered by the digital footprints we all now leave behind...

    1. Great points, Jeff -- especially on the reinventing point. That had always been such a cool thing about college -- shedding the preconceptions your long-time schoolmates had. Technologyvdefinitely puts up hinderances to that.