Friday, April 10, 2015

Rule-obeying college students? What has the world come to?

Our campus will soon become yet another tobacco-free campus.  No smoking tobacco. No chewing tobacco. No nothing.

And students seem to want such rules.  They seem to want to bring more rules on what they should not do on campus.  In fact, they gladly even lead such efforts.

What the hell is wrong with the youth today?

For the record, I have never chewed tobacco. Ever.  And my only experience with smoking was back during my first (second?) year of undergraduate studies, when I tried a cigarette and, according to my friends, I was apparently swallowing the smoke instead of inhaling it.  And that was the end of my tobacco minute.

Yet, I find it all bizarre that a huge campus can be designated as tobacco-free.  If an adult is going to smoke a cigarette in some corner of the campus far away from humans, what the hell is the public interest issue for us to step in and ban the consumption of a perfectly legal drug?  What is the harm to me from a student chewing tobacco in the dorm room?  On a sunny day, if a couple of friends sit on a bench and chew tobacco while talking whatever students talk about, what is so compelling for us to forbid it?  If they want to screw up their health by using tobacco, well, they have all the rights to be morons as long as they don't bother me.

"Bizarre" does not capture it well.  I need better, powerful words.  But, nothing works like "what the fuck!"

There are all kinds of rights issues that one can raise.  Set those aside.  What worries me even more is that students are so eager to craft more and more rules and welcome all kinds of intrusions from the elders in the university.

I find this conformist behavior troubling.  Well, I have been troubled about such trends for a long time.  Back in 2001, David Brooks wrote about "the organization kid" in which he wrote about the Ivy League students, but it was more than about those elite few:
Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist, lamented, "They are disconcertingly comfortable with authority. That's the most common complaint the faculty has of Princeton students. They're eager to please, eager to jump through whatever hoops the faculty puts in front of them, eager to conform."
That was in an essay back in April 2001.  Students being "disconcertingly comfortable with authority."  And that has escalated.  A rule-obeying student population that I find to be shockingly disappointing.

Brooks wrote then:
Not only at Princeton but also in the rest of the country young people today are more likely to defer to and admire authority figures. Responding to a 1997 Gallup survey, 96 percent of teenagers said they got along with their parents, and 82 percent described their home life as "wonderful" or "good." Roughly three out of four said they shared their parents' general values. When asked by Roper Starch Worldwide in 1998 to rank the major problems facing America today, students aged twelve to nineteen most frequently named as their top five concerns selfishness, people who don't respect law and the authorities, wrongdoing by politicians, lack of parental discipline, and courts that care too much about criminals' rights. It is impossible to imagine teenagers a few decades ago calling for stricter parental discipline and more respect for authority. In 1974 a majority of teenagers reported that they could not "comfortably approach their parents with personal matters of concern." Forty percent believed they would be "better off not living with their parents."
The youth of today were also raised that way.  Again, let me remind you that this is from 2001--before the events of 9/11, which then triggered the police-state apparatus that we now have in the US:
Other cultures controlled behavior by citing divine commandments. We control behavior by enacting safety rules. And we've all noticed that these rules are growing stricter and stricter by the year. Not long ago young kids bounced around in the back seat of the family sedan; nowadays any parent who allowed that would be breaking the law and would be generally viewed as close to a child abuser. Not long ago kids rode bikes unencumbered. Now a mere scooter ride requires body armor, and in many families kids aren't permitted to ride out of sight of the house.
Those kids are now today's youth who demand more and more rules even as adults!  How awful!!!

In case you think that the "child abuser" argument that Brooks made is hyperbole, well, remember the news about the free-range parents?  You forgot?  Here is a recap for you from last month:
The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.
Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.
But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.
Yes, the "crime" the parents committed was to allow--and encourage--their kids to walk home by themselves from a neighborhood park!

Oh well.  Is it any wonder that the youth seem to yawn at the Snowden revelations?  The rule-obeying students will make it all easy for a 1984-like scenario to unfold.  All the better that my time is limited.  Until then, rebel I shall! ;)


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