As I prepare to head back to school, I've been thinking about how interesting it will be to interact with the next generation of students. Many of them will have grown up with the ability to log on to the internet and gain instant information, the ability to contact friends and family at a moments notice, and an overall different perspective on life. Not that I am that much older that they will be, but 10+ years is difference enough to grow up with a completely different set of ideas, beliefs and interests.
I came across a blog post that gives me pause, however. I wonder how many of these students will have spent a lifetime being groomed to grow up and be consumers.
This past weekend I had the occasion to visit a dorm at George Washington University. I hadn't been in a dorm in years and was shocked at how nice it was. Each room in this particular dorm had its own kitchenette and bathroom. Some rooms have their own washer and dryer. Apparently, this is the norm. When I was in college we were crammed into tiny rooms with no amenities and sharing a bathroom with 6 other girls was the norm. We shared the laundry room with the entire dorm.
Apparently, today's college students have grown up with certain standards and aren't going to lower them just because they are in college and away from the comforts of home. In fact, they expect those comforts to follow them there. When deciding where to go to college, dorms and dining halls play as much a part as do the classes and football team.
Not that I can deny being on the cusp of some consumerist ideas when I was in college (free gift for signing up for a credit card!, etc.), but the trials and tribulations of college are what made it part of growing up into an adult. You had to share a bathroom and kitchen with others on your floor, you had to keep it reasonably clean, and you had to wait in line to do your bi-monthly load of laundry (yes - we were gross in college).
Just to make your blood boil a little more: (via LA Times)
The trend toward the four-star dorm is a convergence of several factors: a generation of students who have grown up sharing neither the bedroom nor the bathroom with siblings, parents who are accustomed to high tuition costs and don't object to paying a few hundred more per month for better accommodations, and universities competing for enrollment and using posh new residence halls as marketing tools.
Callaway Villas, in College Station next to Texas A&M, is a gated ACC complex of three-story town houses plus a 16,000-square-foot clubhouse, a resort-style pool, basketball courts, a sand volleyball court and shuffleboard. Living units have faux-hardwood floors, ceiling fans and, for those light sleepers, white-noise generators.
And take a high blood pressure pill before this one: (Washington Post)
Some have given single rooms to students not used to sharing. Others have offered maid service and microwaves. Now they're giving them a larger space on which to lay their heads. At AU, the move toward double beds came after complaints by students that the twins were too small and too childish, said Rick Treter, director of residence life. When a dorm designed with suites of larger single bedrooms was built, the double beds were the ticket.
Yeah, yeah, I know that I am a little too young to sound like Grampa, "in my day we walked 4 miles uphill to school both ways..." But I can only imagine that these amenities add to the yearly increases in tuition, and a few months on to the students loan payback time frame. It also adds to the phenomenon of "I don't care how, I want it now!" The unrealistic view that we can have something for nothing.
Kunstler rails against this way of thinking:
The Las Vegas-i-zation of the American mind is a pernicious idea in itself, but it is compounded by another mental problem, which I call the Jiminy Cricket syndrome. Jiminy Cricket was Pinocchio's little sidekick in the Walt Disney Cartoon feature. The idea is that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. It's a nice sentiment for children, perhaps, but not really suited to adults who have to live in a reality-based community, especially in difficult times.
The idea - that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true - obviously comes from the immersive environment of advertising and the movies, which is to say, an immersive environment of make-believe, of pretend. Trouble is, the world-wide energy crisis is not make-believe, and we can't pretend our way through it, and those of us who are adults cannot afford to think like children, no matter how comforting it is.
Combine when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true with the belief that it is possible to get something for nothing, and the psychology of previous investment and you get a powerful recipe for mass delusional thinking. As our society comes under increasing stress, we're liable to see increased delusional thinking, as worried people retreat further into make-believe and pretend.
College is supposed to be difficult. It's supposed to be uncomfortable. It is supposed to be a community event. Yes, it's supposed to be fun too. But most of all, it has to get you ready for the real world. The real world where you might not be able to afford an apartment with a washer and dryer in it, maybe not even in the building! The real world where you might have to live on mac and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches to get your start. The real world where it's easier to collaborate with family friends and neighbors to tackle a problem, rather than on your own. Where it's better to solve disputes rather than retreating to your solitary room.
But I guess that is the "real world" that I entered out of school. The "real world" of today is more about ringing up a new flat screen TV on your charge card at 24 1/2 percent, living in an apartment that you can't afford, on a salary that barely pays your student loans, even though you've stretched them out for 20 years.