Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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So It’s Come to This

Res Publica

July 2001

by Kevin Portteus

My family often wonders exactly what it is that I do at 2, 3, 4 in the morning, night after night. Mostly I study, read, talk to people, yet occasionally I find myself parked in front of the television, lost in the Late Late Show or some documentary on the History Channel when there are a dozen or more things I ought to be doing.

It was on one of these nights that I underwent a horrifying catharsis. While watching one of these shows and stuffing Ramen noodles in my mouth, a warning flashed on my television: "Warning! The following material is not suited for children under 18." Before I realized what was happening, there it was: the "College Girls Gone Wild" video collection. Mardi Gras, Daytona Beach, Cancun: if you can think of the place they’d be there, and they’d be exposing themselves for the camera. Order now, and you’ll get "Sorority Sex Kittens," absolutely free. New and improved, now with Greek letters. Additionally, one can preview additional videos in the series. Cancel at any time.

It called to mind a similar instance involving one of my professors. No, no nudity was involved, but the message here is the same. While we were talking one day, he asked if I was aware of the pictures in the student center here at Ashland University. Confused, I replied that I was. He then asked me if I had ever noticed anything peculiar about said pictures, to which I said no. He said that he had examined every picture, and had not found one shot of a classroom or lab in progress. Since then, I have tried to find one, and though my study is far from thorough, I too have noticed the absence of academic themes. There was no shortage of concert posters, pictures of dorm life or President Benz, student activities and the like, but no academics.

Though the examples are unrelated, they both lead one to the same conclusion: College has come to this. Students expect something from the university experience, and universities everywhere are more than happy to oblige. Colleges promote the college lifestyle relentlessly, baiting students with descriptions of nightlife, concerts, residence life, fraternities and friends. Read a typical brochure, and one will find it to contain page after page of such things, complete with pictures and quotes. Buried on one page near the back is a list of majors and programs, and a short paragraph on quality academics. The message is simple: "Come to college, we’ll show you a good time."

And they do. Lots of them. Half a century of relative peace and massive overall prosperity have placed surplus money in the hands of people who formerly could not afford to send their children to college. Innumerable federal and state student aid programs have made it possible for millions more to attend classes. Employers now require college training as never before. The result of this is a massive expansion in the college population.

Notice, however, that nowhere in this list of causes is an increased desire for the benefits of education. Not those benefits which modern America typically attaches to education: getting a job, skills training, networking, apprenticeships, and the like. These are things which we now expect, because of the need for college degrees for successful employment. These are modern inventions. At one time college was a place where a few people went who wished to immerse themselves in the quest for knowledge and truth. They had a passion for reason, the pursuit of truth, and the transmission of the acquired gifts of humanity to future generations. They loved their fields, and their pursuit of them hardly ended when the responsibilities did. College today is now just another step on the road to employment, and most students treat it as such. When they are at their studies, they work, hating what they do, knowing that they have to do it to get to a job. They learn to do what they are told, without thinking, without any of the positive benefits described above.

The real crime is when the work is done. Doing what they do out of necessity, they seek to get away from it as soon as possible. They loathe what they do to the point where they think about it and discuss it outside of the classroom. They have no passion for what they do for it is impossible to have passion for it. As such they spend every possible moment trying to do other things. An entire college culture has developed around providing for that escape, and students themselves are willing to do anything to achieve that escape. These are people who have no passion for college, but no responsibilities to prevent them from pursuing any activity that is not college. Their only goal is to leave their work behind and indulge in whatever activity is available, and when none is, they make up their own. Enter College Girls Gone Wild.

We are not what we have been. Literature, ethics, politics, the arts, the sciences and history have been replaced by Sorority Sex Kittens and the never-ending party. From centers of learning, reason, and the pursuit of truth, we have descended to a place our forefathers would not even recognize. Instead of using reason, we use every reason not to. Even when we are in class, we go to school, learn how to do a job, and leave. Most of the time, for most people, college is a huge party with a 5-digit cover charge. Even if their motives aren’t sinister, most colleges seem to want it that way. Admittedly, one should always have a good time, but the culture of ignorance created by universities and populated by willing youth should make one wonder why he is here in the first place. That in itself is the first victory.

Kevin Portteus is a senior from Akron, Ohio majoring in political science and mathematics.

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