As with the first Comment of the Day posted today, Steve-O-in-NJ takes an Ethics Alarms essay in a new direction, as he uses my post about Old Dominion University’s treating an ill-considered episode of frat boy sexual innuendo as the equivalent of threatened rape and sexual violence. His Comment of the Day is his advice to a college-entering hypothetical son, in light of the dangers inherent in the modern campus culture.
It also begins with an assertion that is vital but that none of the Presidential candidates—or the President— discussing the issues of student loans and the cost of college ever seem to make, which is that the purpose of college is to learn to think, become educated, broaden intellectual horizons and be socialized as a blossoming adult and productive citizen. Instead, we, and they, are told that a degree is essential to get a job and make as much money as possible, regardless of whether or not that piece of paper stands for any increased knowledge and skill. Often it doesn’t. Usually it doesn’t. It was over this issue—promoting education as a work credential rather than as a life enhancement and necessity—that I resigned as president of an education promoting non-profit many years ago. The situation has only gotten worse since. This warping of purpose also warps student ethics: if the piece of paper is without substance, why not cheat to obtain it?
Here is the Comment of the Day by Steve-O-in-NJ on the post Ethics Observations On The Old Dominion University Signa Nu Fraternity Freakout:
I don’t have a son, but if I did and he was beginning his freshman year at college, I’d tell him “Son, never lose sight of why you are going here. It’s frankly to amass a lot of knowledge, 25% of which might actually be useful, and to walk away with a degree that will open doors for you to become a self-supporting, productive, tax-paying citizen. Anything that gets in the way of that, you need to stay the hell away from.
The professors will not remember you after you have finished their course, but while you are in it and while you are here, they are holding all the cards. They want you to give back exactly what they give you, so do it. You will need letters of recommendation for graduate school and performance is the best way to get them.
The administration are like cops, municipal judges, and insurance adjusters, not people you ever want to see if you can avoid it, and if you do, you know you have a problem. In this environment they are all-powerful, and will not hesitate to use that power against you.
That goes double because you are a white, straight, Christian male, and they will automatically take the word of anyone who is not over yours. So keep your mouth shut, your profile low, and your eyes on the prize.
Don’t be unfriendly, but don’t invest too much in the friends you make here, in four years you will all be headed back to your own states and in five or six you won’t remember each other.
Stay the hell away from the girls here. You are not a star athlete, you are not a star anything, and one ill-chosen word or one touch taken the wrong way can be fatal to your college career. You will be 22 when you leave here and that will leave you plenty of time to find the woman you will marry in an environment where she can’t stop your life before it starts.
Stay the hell away from alcohol and drugs. Period.
Stay the hell away from fraternities. Nothing good and a lot of bad comes of everything they do. Also stay the hell away from activism. The sixties were fifty years ago and they are not going to come again. The real power players in this world do not care about the opinions of a few young people. I’m not saying don’t get involved, but keep your involvement to activities you actually enjoy and might get something out of, as long as it doesn’t take your eyes off the prize.
This above all: remember who is paying the bills and why I sent you here. You worked hard to get admitted, but if your tuition is not being paid the school will not hesitate to bodily dump you outside the gates. If your grades don’t measure up, if I hear anything about any kind of substance abuse, if I hear anything about any kind of misbehavior, I will not hesitate to cease paying your tuition immediately and send you to make your own way in the world. I know this last set of standards sounds vague. It is deliberately so. You have been given a great privilege here, which you must prove yourself to be deserving of every day. Please nod to indicate you understand, there is no need for a verbal response.”