Thursday, March 30, 2006

Feel Good Sentiments Make Someone Feel Bad - So It Is Thus Here and Everywhere

I've just come from an endless faculty meeting where we were told once again by our nearly Pentecostal President how wonderful the "dear children" are who come to our school. This is a not uncommon event at this liberal arts college in the Midwest.

We're often told how lucky we are to have these "dear children" in our midst. The fact that it's not true - any of it - doesn't seem to bother anyone. My students are hungover, disrespectful, vacant, TV-addled, and uninterested in anything other than satisfying their various libidinal urges - which I can tell you are gigantic. Beer cans and bottles line the road in front of the the major dorms. We've had a sexual assault on campus this semester. We've had at least 4 explusions for drugs. And once a month we gather and exchange lies with each other about these students.

Today was especially bad. There was nearly a "revival tent" feeling in the room as others around me nodded their heads at the inanity that was being passed around. Here are some quotes from the meeting:

  • from the President: "These dear children have been entrusted to us, and it's our job to act as mentors and scholars and role models to each of them. We need to act at all times, whether it be in class or out in the community, as leaders, aware that every minute they are looking to us for moral guidance."
  • from a fevered faculty member: "I know that these are good kids. I know that the drinking and smoking and bad behavior of other colleges doesn't exist here. We're blessed."
  • from our Academic Dean: "The students I see here are serious, concerned, determined to have a positive impact on making this world a better place. We don't have to deal with the problems that [big state school nearby] or [sprawling multi-campus community college 50 miles away] have to deal with."

First of all, none of this matches the truth of what I've seen at the college over 6 years. Faculty do not - and should not - mentor or teach students at this college anything about morality. Once I leave campus I'm on my own, and if I bump into a freshman at the liquor store, I just hope he's not in front of me to slow me down while I'm getting my beer.

And the notion that our students are anything other than louts with bad attitudes about education is laughable. Nobody I know believes any of this shit, yet it's publicly proclaimed at every college function I attend.

What bugs me is the hypocricy of it. I see the nodding heads in the faculty meeting and I want to stand up and say, "Tell the fucking truth." I actually think we'd all be better off if we admitted the truth, recognized that serious work has to be done if we really want to help our students learn something while they're here. This endless and duplicitous placating we do for ourselves (and of course for parents, trustees, and donors) is false and dangerous.