Saturday, March 03, 2012

It's A College, Not a Cloister

"because it's the 3rd day of the 3rd month:)"
A few days ago, I was reading a NYTimes, Op-Ed piece by Columnist Frank Bruni. It was a column re candidate Rick Santorum's remarks about college being an anti-conservative, and liberals' indoctrination site for young people.  It was quite upsetting to me and as I usual I ranted to my spouse about it a little and then set it aside.  Today I am calmer while re-reading it, yet it does bring up my own college memories and the effect that experience brought to my own life.

By the way, if you don't read the entire article, this is a quote from it -
"What good are ideas formed and fortified in a protective cocoon, without exposure to other ways of thinking? Or convictions that haven’t been tested by, and defended against, competing ones?"

But to my comments - when I left the somewhat cloistered environment of my small town in Oklahoma, I attended the University of Oklahoma.  I lived in a single sex dormitory (no one had even thought about mixed dorms yet!) where I met a diverse group of young women.  I had an assigned roommate who smoked - horrors! - we were not a good match - and the roommate experience was only the beginning of habits and personalities that I came up against, disliked, embraced, argued with,, despised, loved.

I met my first Jew, my first black person, my first sophisticated/rich (those were my descriptors then) person, I met young people with unlimited spending money, and those of us on a strict budget.  I met kids who knew how to study and did and those who seemed to have no need for study and blanched about the fact that we were actually supposed to attend classes.  (I was scared to death to skip a class for no reason!) Coming from an encouraging teacher/student high school atmosphere, I met an assistant professor who scrawled awful red marks over my first English composition with words of contempt for my style and content.  I attended my first economics class and was surprised by the fact that I actually enjoyed that class the most of all.  I was part of discussions into the night about college, fraternities, politics, religion, branded clothing and periods.  I had no idea at the time that other girls probably also discussed sex, birth control pills, and abortions.

I would say that reflecting upon the totally small town mindset and "cloistered" family life that my parents, teachers, and religious leaders had surrounded me with from childhood, that college was a huge surprise to me and for me.  It didn't turn me into a liberal nor a conservative.  It didn't insist upon nor deny that I could attend religious services nor even my classes - if I could pass without attending, that is - I didn't feel that I was being indoctrinated into anything (perhaps one is never aware of brain washing) yet, I do know it was a time I needed to grow out of my teens in an environment other than the safety net that had been devised by my parents up until that time.  I'm not denigrating that safety net, yet endorsing that college, whether it is four years at a university or two years at a community college, is a bit of a holding pattern in which the child begins to step near the edge in order to fly on its own - it is neither a den of thieves nor a cloister.

Mr. Santorum, the possible political candidate for president, is right when he says that college often exposes children to unhealthy and dangerous situations, yet would he have us all home schooled as his seven children were? What of those seven, have they all left him (with schooling outside of the home) and become right wing liberal crazies? I doubt that.  Even Mr. Santorum has, I believe, three proud letters of educational superiority attached to his performance record - an undergrad degree, an MBA, and a law degree.  Would he have all of us and all of our children remain unschooled, unfledged, uninformed, while he and his clan are or were offered their American dream and allowed to form their own opinions and way into life - perhaps in the only way that would have led to their success and foundation in life - a college education?

It's a college, not a cloister, it's an opportunity not a sentence to hell, it's life - with exposure to those we agree with and those we don't agree with..... Praise for college rather than denigration, I hope any president of the USA would endorse that opportunity for all of those who desire it, not just those who can afford it.

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