At the outset of this article, allow me to offer to the reader(s) — especially if you’re parents of teenage children, and even more especially if you’ve children on the precipice of entering college — a “plea” of sorts: Read very carefully what I have to say here. I am an educator of two decades in a private Catholic, college-preparatory high school, one with reasonably distinguished ties to some of the best colleges and universities in the country. I have worked the latter half of those years in administration and, consequently, I have a good deal of experience with the very nature of the academic world into which your children may be headed.
Are there good colleges? Yes, of course; however, what I’m attempting to paint in this piece is the larger, more general picture of the situation into which the academic, political Left in this country has delivered us. For the past half-century, it seems to have become more and more an accepted part of life that all students should go to college. While that may still have a good degree of truth to it, as I’ll present here, there is now more reason than ever to begin at least evaluating whether or not attending college at all is the right decision for your child and/or your family. Please pay attention.
– John Feeny
In attempting to shed some degree of light on the current, rather complex problems that have twisted the heart of the American educational system, I first presented a piece in which those who support a big-government apparatus have incrementally tried to make unencumbered school choice for parents as difficult as possible, by whittling down to a bare minimum the seeming “realistic” avenues available, trying desperately to leave them with but one alternative in the local public system. Now, I plan to explain how they’ve done basically the same thing with higher education, but in this case it applies to the career choices available upon graduation.
A few weeks back, on April 20th, the students at the University of Colorado held their annual “smoke-out,” a day when all of the “really, really smart” people come together to collectively inhale as much of the cherished herb as humanly possible. Why? Who knows? Perhaps it’s some type of statement regarding their feelings about leaving childhood, having to grow up at some point, and being responsible for their own lives. Personally, I think it’s more an impulse to impress one’s friends and to show everyone who seems worthy of being called “cool” and “enlightened” that “hey, I’m cool and enlightened too, darn it.”
One thing is for certain, however: the Colorado Smoke-Out is a metaphor for what “higher” education has become in the United States of America, for whether it’s smoking marijuana, excessive drinking, or consuming illicit drugs, the higher academic world has generally become little more than extended adolescence and four to five years of partying, with marginal attention to detail devoted to refining the education of the future leaders of a free society. It’s now more the province of the re-education, or perhaps “finishing school”, for the in-doctrinal tactics of the political far-Left in our country.
For the better part of the past half-century, nearly all of us in mainstream America have grown up listening to the elders in our family tell us that “we have to go to college” for a litany of reasons, not the least of which is simply the most obvious: to educate oneself. Anyone who has gone to and graduated from a four-year college can certainly attest that four years of much more abstract thought do have a profound effect on one’s perspective. I’m honestly unsure as to whether I’m expressing my thoughts adequately in this case but, in short, emerging from collegiate studies–assuming, of course, that one can sift out the leftist nonsense from the majority of the professors–that have actually been taken seriously has the effect of widening one’s outlook and leading a person to consider all sorts of possibilities about life that he or she might otherwise not have .
Beyond this, though, what have always been the time-tested reasons, so to speak, that were repeatedly spoken to us about the necessity of going to college by the people in our lives who really mattered? Off the top of my head, I can think of a few general ones: to finish one’s formal education; to earn the degrees that would enable us to compete in an increasingly sophisticated world and job market; so we wouldn’t have to “work with our hands”; and, perhaps, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
At some point, however, something else entered the dynamic regarding the “necessity” of moving on to college — and, perhaps, even a very prestigious college or university: it gradually became more about the self-prestige of the parents than the betterment and happy future of the children, as though the children’s attending an allegedly “elite” university was a trophy for the parents to display in social circles in an effort to impress “important” people.
After all, what would our friends think?
This evolutionary process has had far-reaching ramifications for our society, ramifications that are only clear if a person actually takes the time to think about the situation in which we now find ourselves. We now live in an American society and educational reality in which at least two generations–and quite possibly three–have been raised believing that college is one of the next “required” steps in life.
Funny, but in the not-too-distant past, a student’s achieving enough academically in high school in order to attend college was considered an accomplishment; now, the significance of going to college is analogous to “passing Go” and collecting your handout of $200. Further, this is all very much in line with the collectivists’ thinking that every human has a “natural-born right” to an education. Further, many jobs that decades ago would take high school graduates and provide them with the on-the-job training necessary to succeed now will not even take a second look at a prospective employee unless that employee has at least an undergraduate degree. It’s a dangerous cycle.
The extended ramifications to which I alluded have been eating into the foundation of our society for decades now. As a result of roughly half a century of more and more students “automatically” moving onto college, we now have an exponentially-growing number of students who believe that “individual freedom” and a “state-controlled society” go hand-in-hand, in addition to an exponentially shrinking number of skilled tradesman and people who generally work with their hands — in short, the “makers of things.”
Of course, based on the seeming belief that has been hammered into the heads of young people during the latter half of the twentieth century, those “menial jobs”–as well as those who work them–are to be avoided at all costs. Consequently, we now see displayed in front of our very eyes on our television screens a generation of young people who feel that they shouldn’t have to pay back their college loans, that doing so is somehow the government’s or someone else’s job; a generation of young people who feel that others who work hard and achieve good things are to be torn down, not celebrated; and, most telling, a generation of people who wouldn’t accept the proverbial job of “flipping hamburgers” if it were flatly given to them, because let’s face it — that’s beneath them.
In short, this is a recipe for disaster. The number of skilled people who can make things, fix things, or are talented enough to work as a tradesman or start their own businesses is diminishing rapidly, and the number of people who are not willing to do these jobs or to make their own stake in life is growing even more quickly. Basically, we’re walking a path on which the necessary hard work incumbent on any organized civilization will not get done.
More to this point, John Ratzenberger–”Cliff Clavin” of Cheers fame, and one of the integral voices in the Disney/Pixar Toy Story animated films franchise–has lent his influence to an initiative called Nuts And Bolts Foundation, an organization with a mission, so to speak, to make people more aware of our now desperate need for future skilled workers, to interest young people in learning to and the value of work with their hands, and to show our young people that they can, indeed, have a very productive future as skilled workers.
After all, if the entire pool of skilled laborers dried up, who would fix the sinks of the elitist liberals?
Beyond that, more young people should wake up, because the demand for these workers is going to be so high over the next generation or so that they could well be able to punch their own financial ticket in life. The “elitists” might just be working in their posh offices in order to pay their plumbers.
While there are no doubt plenty of students who emerge from a college or university having taken their studies seriously, I think that most people around the country who pay attention to such things realize and would admit that there are probably many, many more who, as I pointed out earlier, view their four years on campus as their opportunity finally to be free of any parental restrictions, to live away from home, and to live an unabashedly party lifestyle. I would think, however, that this reality would now begin to give pause to more parents who are paying the nearly unaffordable–and exponentially rising–price tag of a four-year college education.
While there’s no question that there are probably some wealthy families who send their children off to more prestigious schools, knowing full well the types of activities in which their children will involve themselves (likely justifying the tuition cost and the risks against the university’s name on the diploma and the connections that come with it), one would think that more parents of reasonable common sense would be shocked at the knowledge of what is deemed acceptable social behavior on many campuses, to say nothing of the “soft, intellectual strong-arming” that takes place in many of these classrooms, incubators in which leftist politics are dressed up as “academia”.
On a couple of occasions during my time here at America’s Right, I’ve mentioned that one of my former students, Travis Rowley, has become one of the more significant conservative voices here in Rhode Island, a young man who is an author, writes a weekly political column for GoLocal Providence, serves as a fill-in talk show host on WHJJ, and is a Brown University graduate. Travis, who was viewed as being just slightly below the Antichrist at Brown (he’s white, extremely intelligent, Catholic, athletic–starting wide receiver on the football team–and conservative), was so shocked at what passed for acceptable behavior and education at an allegedly “elite” university that he was inspired to write his book, Out of Ivy, which can be found at Amazon. Perhaps an Op-Ed that he wrote for the Providence Journalback in 2005 might catch the attention of prospective collegiate parents as to what goes on behind the gates at Brown University, as well as many other colleges like it around the country:
Undressing Brown University
Providence Journal – November 23, 2005
Sayles Hall “shall be exclusively and forever devoted to lectures and recitations, and to meetings on academic occasions.” – William F. Sayles, June 14, 1878
LAST WEEK, Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor delivered to the nation disturbing footage of Brown University’s annual Sex, Power, God party. Images of half-naked students and reports of public sex within the party did little to maintain the prestigious image of Sayles Hall, where the festivity took place.
However, as a record number of students in one night required the use of emergency medical services, it gave the university’s suddenly humiliated administration the opportunity to frame this incident in the unalarming and simple context of college students’ just having a little too much drunken fun on a Saturday night. But there is much more to this story hidden behind the Ivy curtain.
The Brown administration has declared that it is “reviewing” its alcohol policies by “analyzing” last weekend’s mischief. And Ruth Simmons, the university’s president, would love the discussion to end right there. As administrators tell us that they are “consider[ing] policy changes,” they hope that we accept the impression that everything is now under control. Go on with your daily routines; the administration will take it from here.
Thus, the liberal dominion at Brown — absolute student autonomy, and an administration that is detached from student affairs.
Sex, Power, God is hosted each year by Brown’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual Alliance, otherwise known as the Queer Alliance. You will notice that the LGBTA, one of the campus left’s most potent activist organizations, has received only a slap on the wrist for its ineffectiveness in keeping alcohol out of its party. In turn, Sex, Power, God has been wrongfully equated with the average fraternity shindig, while the scapegoat has become the university’s alcohol policies. This has let Brown and the LGBTA escape the harsh critique that they both deserve.
Let me tell you a little bit about the sponsor of Sex, Power, God.
The LGBTA is a thunderous and well-organized association of radical students. If they weren’t so repugnant, I’d say that they were a very impressive activist group. Any College Hill veteran will tell you of this organization’s in-your-face practices. But not too many will reveal to you the LGBTA’s top priority: to convert every Brown student into a sexual heathen, with eyes numbed to the sight of anything hypersexual. Any words that the Queer Alliance speaks, any lectures it sponsors, and any project it takes part in — including a party — is a step toward that goal.
A frat party? Not even close.
First off, fraternity events are held in — you guessed it — fraternity houses. Not historic Sayles Hall, where portraits of U.S. and Brown luminaries adorn the walls, and prominent national figures are invited to address the Ivy League school. And, last I checked, wearing clothes is the norm. So is privatizing any sex that may result from a party’s debauchery.
But the most significant difference between LGBTA-sponsored parties and “Animal Houses” is simply the objective. Most student organizations coordinate events to have a good time. However, like all events organized by the Queer Alliance, the Sex, Power, God party seeks to advance the gay agenda by desensitizing Ivy League students to sexual deviance. The Ivy League then sends those graduates off to sit in Congress and other important offices. Any person who equates an LGBTA event with the usual fraternity bash is utterly out of touch with the radicalism of Ivy League student groups.
Over the years, the LGBTA has discovered the effectiveness of liberal activism; that is, not to bring ideas to the table for discussion and debate, but rather to effortlessly label its political opposition as bigoted, and spend most of its time turning Brown’s campus into one big Hustler magazine, promoting acts that traditional values would see as moral depravity, and that mock Judeo-Christian values.
The LGBTA makes the public claim that it exists to provide a safe space for “people of all identities.” Its members organize and rally for “marriage equality,” and they combat “homophobia” and other “forms of discrimination.”
Fine. But here’s something you may not know about the Queer Alliance: Each year it sponsors lectures by famous pornographers and “sex educators.” It conducts oral-sex and anal-sex “workshops.” It hosts “porn parties” and “drag shows.”
So how could anyone flinch when it tastelessly names its parties Sex, Power, God and [sexual obscenity], and advertises the events with pornographic posters that decorate university halls and courtyards? These advertisements always cross the decency line, and are often beyond justifiable. One poster in my junior year portrayed four naked men performing some sort of sex conga line in a shower room. And now the administration wonders how Sex, Power, God got so out of control.
Bill O’Reilly got one thing right: This was the “party Brown University doesn’t want you to know about!”
President Simmons’s hesitation to publicly denounce Sex, Power, God and ban any further LGBTA events from university buildings is nothing but disgraceful. But that’s the way it has been for decades at Brown. Radical student groups have been given control of the campus, and they savagely silence any dissenters.
For a student to speak out against the indecency of the LGBTA would take John Wayne-type bravery. And if any news organization ever catches wind of campus injustice, the administration has an easy out: Hey, we didn’t know what was going on. But we’ll be sure to take care of this right away.
In 1878, William F. Sayles, in memory of his late son, gave $50,000 to Brown University for a building that “shall be exclusively and forever devoted to lectures and recitations, and to meetings on academic occasions.” They call themselves “progressives” up there on College Hill. Just look how far they’ve come.
In short, while a sampling of the college life at Brown University might not be the status quo for all schools across the country, it’s certainly not too much of a stretch to believe that a) most, if not all, Ivy league schools are quite similar, and b) most schools around the country have devolved into bastions of the “freedom from responsibilty” mindset that the political Left in our country has been softly attempting to impose on our culture for half a century. True educational principles have taken a backseat to allowing the inmates to run the asylum, so as to keep the tuition dollars flowing freely.
All those “really smart” professors ask in exchange for their benevolence is blind adherence and obedience to the liberal mantra. Our children are being sent into a den of intolerance, but not toward people who are different; this is an intolerance of ideas, which is significantly more lethal.