One thought always reins me in whenever I feel a rant at the young coming on.
I was young once.
Just as these supposed ‘end times’ will one day be ‘the good old days’ for our children, so I am now the rantee turned ranter, an ex-young fool now despairing of young fools, who in turn will one day despair of those who follow them.
Humbling as this reflection may be, I suspect it has an equally recurrent flipside. As the wheel turns, each generation it flings into middle age will, I fancy, think its situation to be unique, insisting that “We were never this bad at their age…”
If so, then it’s now my turn, but no matter how timeless a trap I may be falling into, it is impossible to remained silent in the face of goings-on at America’s Oberlin College. (Which I comment upon here because, if it starts in America, chances are it’s headed Britain’s way.)
Hell, we might have grumbled about homework, exams, job interviews and the other steps up life’s ladder 40 years ago, but we could grudgingly see the point to them. Those who actively sought to dismantle the ladder were isolated oddballs. Today, they have become mainstream.
Today, if they have Oberlin College as part of their address, they want it to be social activism first, education second. Abolish all grades below C and replace examinations with chats with a professor, they demand, to take account of how this whole ‘learning’ thing is really beginning to mess with their change-the-world objectives.
“The students say that between their activism work and their heavy course load, finding success within the usual grading parameters is increasingly difficult. ‘A lot of us worked alongside community members in Cleveland who were protesting,’ Megan Bautista, a co-liaison in Oberlin’s student government, said, referring to the protests surrounding the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a police officer in 2014. ‘But we needed to organize on campus as well — it wasn’t sustainable to keep driving 40 minutes away. A lot of us started suffering academically.'”
Certain truisms to which even their radical predecessors would at least nod, now seem to completely pass people by. The idea that you’re at college first and foremost to learn, for example (and see how America holds you to that, kids, should Bernie Sanders’ dream of free education for all ever come to pass). Or that part of that learning process involves focus and prioritising, waking up to the fact that our actions have consequences and that no-one can have or do it all.
If you’re not meeting the demands of your college, it calls for re-appraisal by you, not for some convenient sleight of hand in the college’s grading process. And if you don’t know it well enough to write it down, don’t kid yourself that you’ll express it any better with the eyes of some professor unamused by such indulgence burning holes in your forehead.
The world will still need saving when you graduate. You may be surprised how much more you can achieve in that regard when you’re based in an office or laboratory instead of behind a fast-food counter.
Of course, if that generational cycle continues to do its thing, the snowflakes of Oberlin College will one day seem paragons of diligence and realism compared to those who follow them. But they must excuse me if I’m finding that a little hard to visualise right now.