Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SURELY THEY HAVE TO KNOW

I realize that many higher educators don’t believe that students really keep up with the news. They are involved in other more essential tasks like their full or part-jobs, relationships, then school, etc. But I believe that students are like the rest of us and they just sort of absorb the culture.

So they have to be feeling that consumer confidence has again taken a precipitous decline.

They have to be aware of the continuing high unemployment and that this week over one million Americans have just exhausted their unemployment benefits and that one lone Republican Senator has put a hold on legislation that would extend those benefits.

They have to be aware that once they leave school they will roll off their college student health insurance and/or their parents’ group coverage, for those whose parents still have that. So on some level they have to have some interest in and awareness of the fact that their government is in total paralysis about acting to reform health insurance.

They have to know people in their own families, neighbors, friends who are unemployed, exhausting their savings. This has to make them wonder if they are going to find employment at all let alone fitting for college graduates. So they have to be asking just what is the purpose of college anyway, if not to get me a better job.

They have to have noticed the excitement that swept many college campuses, or high schools just one fall ago when one person moved them to actually think about “hope.”And now they have to note that, for the most part, that “hope” has vanished.

They have to have known and understood all along what we woke up today to read as headlines in our papers, however we read them: “Teen pot and alcohol use increases”. Not only do they have to have known this because they have observed and lived this, they have to be sympathetic to an attitude that promotes hedonism as an alternative to despair.

No matter what your subject, no matter what your role on college campuses, your students have to be looking at YOU for some hint of possible directions for them to be thinking about, in this new normal of very few inspiring examples—on either side of the political house, or in the examples of corporate leadership as evidenced by how companies are treating both employees and customers. YOU are the last resort for inspiration. YOU are the last seat on the bus.

-John Gardner