Freshman Disorientation

I found, with mixed feelings, while reading around the writing of Nevitt Sanford on education.  He writes about some of the things I tried to write about in my Self-Development and College Writing.  For example:

            Today’s college student needs preparation for a world in which he must play a variety of roles and even adopt new roles perhaps several times during his life; an impersonal world in which nonetheless he must manage to remain an individual and accept his individuality; a world with awesome potential for either utopia or disaster.

That’s from Sanford’s Where Colleges Fail page 8.  My feelings are mixed not only because he beerbongmanages here a sentence with greater clarity than any single sentence I was able to write but also because this sentence was written or at least published in 1967.

            For Sanford education is not about getting a job; it’s about preparing the student as a person and an individual for life beyond, as he puts it, vocation.  And for this life beyond vocation, education must seek to develop the personality of the student, to impart to it, and bring forth from it the qualities of flexibility, openness to experience, and responsibility. He says clearly that education, as he means it, imparts values.  Today of course in the modern megamultiversity the idea of “education” for job or career has seemingly obliterated Sanford’s and my conception of what education should be.

            A number of years back I sat on a committee given the charge of reporting on, at the institution where I work, the Freshman Year Experience.  I took the whole thing pretty seriously, though looking back I see now the report, written as part of an accreditation review, was pretty much a formality.  The accrediting body was not going to deny accreditation, no matter what the quality of its Freshman Year Experience, to an instruction with a couple of Nobel Prize winners in its faculty. In fact, the chair told us  pretty much up front that the committee was not to produce a document that might upset our Chancellor or make him think he ought to do something about the Freshman Year Experience.

            The report had a number of parts or sections to it on, for example, the Freshman Year Experience and the social life of the student, as well as health of the student, and at one point, a section was to deal with the student and his or her ethical development.  I was particularly interested in this last section, and sat there somewhat stunned to see that my colleagues, faculty and staff from student affairs and counseling across campus, begin to compile a list of the various religious institutions located near campus as resources for the ethical development of the student in his or her Freshman Year Experience.

            Even understanding as I did by then that the report was not to be taken seriously, I was troubled to realize that for my colleagues that idea that the course work itself, the curriculum and the knowledge imparted, might be part of or in some way related to students’ ethical development simply did not occur.  I waited for somebody to bring up that idea or make that connection, but nobody did.  And, understanding that the report was not to be taken seriously, I pretty much just gave up at that point and psychologically, so to speak, threw in the towel.  I wasn’t about, as a lowly lecturer and writing instructor, to lecture my learned colleagues on the true nature of education and their blindness to it.

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