September 1988, sitting in a small lecture room on the NUI Galway Campus, one of my Italian Language Professors made a statement that I will never forget. She told the class to look to their right at the person sitting next to them, and then to their left. There was a red head on my right and a brunette to my left. They were both nice people.
“Pick one of these people to say goodbye to now, because that person will not proceed on to second year.”
It was hard to hear that statement at the time. In fact I thought it would be me who wouldn’t return, but it wasn’t. I broke a sweat, cracked the books, hit the lecture halls and tutorials. I hoped for the best but expected the worst. One third of first year university students would drop out of college. That was the statistic in 1988.
In September of the following year, the brunette to my left did not return to NUI Galway. The professor’s statement sounded harsh at the time, but it was true. The blow was softened when the professor finished her statement with, “You don’t need a college education to do well or live a happy life.”
Can you imagine the outcry if that professor made that statement today?
The title of this blogpost is taken directly from a comment to Kathleen Parker’s excellent article in the Washington Post, For thin-skinned college students, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. It won’t be easy for today’s parents to accept that we should blame ourselves. Between helicopter parenting and making sure our children had everything they needed to succeed, we forgot to prepare them for the one thing that everyone experiences from time to time, failure.
Before you millennials blame us parents, and yes we are part of the problem, keep this in mind: know that we wanted the best for you and tried to give it to you. And we were wrong.
We should have let you fail when you did fail. We should have let you fall when you did fall. Because there were times when you did not deserve the trophy or the medal but were given them for being on the team, even though the team lost. So now you know, learn from it. Mel Brooks calls it a bounce : the ability to see a positive from a negative situation. I call it resilience.
The recent blog post by Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!, further highlights the issue that not everyone is ready for a university education. Your mind needs to be open to debate, open to new thinking. You need to be resilient.
Universities are institutes of higher learning, that means that ideas and opinions will be discussed, thesis statements formulated, and many debates will occur, because this is how we learn. We listen. We discuss. We disagree. We debate. We rethink. We research. We read. We agree to disagree. We learn.
Ideas are not stagnant pools of thought. They need to be stirred up with discussion and debate, how else do we move forward? How else do we gain higher knowledge? Again I will state that Debate should be on the core curriculum for middle and high schools. It isn’t enough to just say, “that’s your perspective,” anymore. Make students debate against their own opinion. That’s true perspective. I asked my debate team students to raise their hands if they were pro the debate topic, and then make them debate con. Did they complain? Absolutely. But did they learn that not everyone will agree? Absolutely. Did they learn resilience? I certainly hope so.
Shouting at a professor, or university president simply because you disagree with their opinion is not higher level thinking, it’s a hissy fit. If you can’t discuss different opinions without yelling, then university may not be the place for you. And that’s ok too. I know plenty of people who did not go to university who live happy and fulfilled lives, who are also resilient.
The demands listed by college student activist groups are lengthy and varied. You can check out the list of demands each college has posted on Demands.org.