A juxtaposition to kick off a discussion of "When Stupid People Go To Smart Colleges."
In case you've missed it, the latest dust-up among the Greatest Generation of Whiners is that Duke sent its incoming freshmen a piece of recommended reading -- Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home" -- as a basis for some community-building discussions.
The response from some of the Class of '19 being that a graphic memoir featuring a lesbian offends the little darlings and they are taking a principled stand against reading it.
So there are all sorts of issues of the Christian Taliban and homophobia and whatever, but here's a more fundamental question (and what better type of question for fundamentalists?):
Why did you apply to Duke? And, if the answer is, "I was misinformed," then "Why, when you saw that the community there had pondered and discussed and recommended a book that so offends you, do you still want to go there?"
Granted, you don't always have a choice. My parents wanted us to attend Catholic colleges, though I was the last in line to whom that mini-rule applied, and my guess is that, if I'd pressed the question, I'd have gotten out of it, too.
But I was an observant, if questioning, Catholic, and, while I broke away from the Church over the next four years, I certainly went there in the first place knowing that the joint was lousy with mackerel-snappers.
So the question is, if your faith is so shaky that you can't test it by reading an unfamiliar point of view, how were you planning to spent four years at a secular school without winding up in the pits of eternal torment as a result?
And why would you want to spend four years surrounded by godless pagan lesbo gay atheist feminazi commies?
It would be different if you signed up for "Graphic Novels as Literature" and discovered that the professor included graphic novels that were a little too graphic for you. You simply drop the course and take something else.
Not saying that's a great response to having your values challenged, but at least it makes sense.
But when a college declares its overall atmosphere before you arrive, and you find it offensive, it's perfectly acceptable to change your mind. In fact, it shows a commendable degree of intelligence.
And please don't tell me that a kid who's smart enough to get into Duke is going to be turned down by Liberty.
In fact, that may be a large part of the problem: Duke is prestigious enough that being accepted there makes it seem mandatory to show up.
Trust me, I sympathize. I was bedazzled enough by the Fighting Irish ethos that, once they said they wanted me, I had no second thoughts.
I eventually got some, but they didn't kick in until I'd been there awhile and by then it was easier to just finish it out and get the sheepskin.
But, (A), that's why I think it's important not to put yourself in that position and (B) if you find yourself offended by the place before the first day of classes, you shouldn't need me to tell you that.
To respond more directly to the two cartoons above, I'm a big believer in giving your kids roots and wings, and it never occurred to my parents to go helicopter on me, nor did I worry that being off on my own was going to turn out to be scary.
I'm not insensitive to other experiences: Not only were both my parents college grads, but three of my four grandparents were, as well, and the fourth was sensitive about it.
By contrast, my roommate freshman year was his family's first, and his parents drove him to college and then outfitted our room with a carpet, curtains and lamp and hugged him and cried. I didn't find it silly or foolish or inappropriate. I thought it was touching.
However, while he probably wrote home more often than I did, they had kissed him and hugged him and left him to start his new life. (He ended up as Chief of Medicine at Walter Reed, so I guess they probably felt pretty good about the way things turned out.)
He also attended chapel regularly, because he was at Notre Dame ferchrissake.
Speaking of which, and while I'm in full "you little punks" mode, I just missed mandatory daily chapel by a year, not because the pope or Father Hesburgh had had a change of heart but because the student body had risen up and demanded a change.
Which I was thinking of the other day while listening to some whining about unpaid internships.
First, demand an end to programs that make internships mandatory. Internships should be wanted and earned, which is to say, confined to highly motivated students who have something of value to offer besides fetching coffee.
When everyone is required to be an intern, the quality of internships has necessarily got to be watered down.
Second, charging for the credit hours earned on an internship is exploitive and reprehensible and colleges should be ashamed of themselves. But students who put up with it should also be ashamed of themselves.
New Rule: The charge for credit hours may not exceed one-third of pay earned. Unpaid internships simply make the math easier and that, in turn, might make the colleges work a little harder on the quality of the internships they establish.
Mind you, I know it's not easy to make changes.
It's not easy-peasy, like stopping a war or driving a president from office or bringing about the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act or amending the Constitution to lower the voting age.
It's really hard: It's like reading a book you don't like.
In fact, I think the kids who read that book deserve some recognition.