I have a very strong memory from college here.
A bunch of friends and I decided it might be interesting to see who could gain the most weight The last hour. I don’t know why we thought it would be interesting, but it is possible that the frontal lobes of 19-21 year old men had something to do with it not yet fully developed. It seemed more interesting than an old-fashioned eating contest, and there was something about it all day (9am to midnight) that appealed to us. It was a way to create a semester routine with an event.
Once the idea is caught up in our relatively small group, we announce it to the whole fraternity. And discovered that there was significant interest in the number of competitors. We set dates, collected prizes – trophies for both weight gain and weight gain as a percentage of mass – and asked the fraternity chef to create a bunch of extra things we could eat throughout the day.
I believe I gained about eight pounds during the day, stuffed with spaghetti, garlic bread and chocolate pudding. In the famous Monty Python sketch I felt like Mr. Kreosot The meaning of lifeUnable to eat even a wafer.
I was not even close to victory. Someone has gained about twenty pounds. Someone else keeps more than 15% of their body weight.
Among those participating in that competition are young idiots who have become lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, bank executives, home parents, writers (it’s me) and all sorts of other things.
I don’t know why this story came to mind when I read a tweet from Johns Hopkins professor and founder PersuasionYasha Maunk, Where he says“What can universities do to promote a culture of free debate and inquiry, not just in the classroom, but also in dormitories and dining halls?” But I think it has to do with what the tweet offers Assumed What’s happening on the college campus, and how specific and narrow this perspective seems.
Mounk was part of a professional class of trolls with so-called “free searches” on campus, and was responding to the recent release of the Heterodox Academy Campus Expression Report, which measures how much students feel “comfortable” or “reluctant” to discuss controversial issues on campus.
The HxA report uses a method that should embarrass an academic group of educators, but there is a panic for fans, with 39-percent of students reluctant to talk about “something” (24%) or “very” (15%). For example, “politics” is considered a concern in class, although most students say that they feel “somewhat” or “very” comfortable talking about politics in class and are free to speak despite “comfort” and “reluctance”. Not a proxy for searching.
It’s interesting that the team is concerned that the students who have been “coddled” are treating the perceived lack of comfort as a bug rather than a feature, but I’ve lost track of various aspects of the discussion, mostly purposeful because it’s a dumb debate that I don’t want to spend any more time on. Promised, and I’m still here.
The focus on Maunk’s tweets and the controversy over the concept of campus as the main purpose of the organization – no offense to Johns Hopkins professors – is both elite and self-serving. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a millionaire in terms of thinking and attitudes on campus, but the idea that students go to college to debate or the ideas that are at the center of experience and the results of a college education are kind of stupid to measure against the real life of college students.
For one, college students are not the only type. My experience as a fraternity member at a large state university is probably a common strain of students, but it is not universal. It is also not a plural, although it is often regarded as such.
According to recent data from UCLA’s HERI Freshman Survey, the main reasons students go to college are (percent says “very important”):
- To be able to get a good job (84%)
- Learn more about my interests (83%)
- Get training for a specific career (78%)
It is not that students focus entirely on certification. Three-quarters of students say that “acquiring a general education and understanding of concepts” is also very important, but students seem to accept the agreement when it comes to pursuing a post-secondary degree. You’re going to mature along the staff experience and path, but it’s a byproduct of the core focus, improving one’s economic potential.
Sometimes that maturity is due to immaturity – as was the case with the great competition for one-day weight gain. I look back at the man whose thirty-year-old background has a mixture of fear and wonder. I am grateful that I was able to be stupid and wrong and to find out what kind of person I wanted to be, which included doing things that I was ashamed to look back on.
Many of Maunke’s tweets indicate that improving the structural disparities embedded in higher education will do more to improve the campus climate around independent expression than any kind of administrative directive, and I think that’s true. Students are primarily concerned about the opinions of their peers. I don’t know how to administer against it.
We should all have a place for students that I have benefited from, but of course young white friends in the Chicago suburbs like me don’t come to college with that kind of economic and academic slack. Thanks to my AP credits, I can take a lower course load. Thanks to the relatively low cost at the time and based on my parents bill, I had all the benefits in the full range of college experience.
Indeed, further controversy may be the last thing students need on college campuses. Wrote on his blog, Blue Book Diary, Jonathan Wilson reflects on Moonk’s tweet, saying, “While we’ve got the whole internet at our disposal, the culture of free debate and inquiry is the most exceptional thing college can offer.”
Wilson added, “Friendship is what people who are intellectually curious really want from college. That kind of change of mind can heal the soul as well. “
My college friends and I weren’t exclusively nonsense To keep themselves busy. We talked for hours about important things, goals in life, what would make us happy, relationships. A significant number of my closest friends met their future husbands in college, and for those who did, most remained married. I can’t help but feel that we have somehow influenced each other on this front.
We discussed without debate. We have been open and shared, which would require some measure of vulnerability, a feature that is uncomfortable to win in a debate. The desire for a safe place, for caution, the things that the members of the Heterodox Academy object so vehemently is really just a desire to understand a little, a desire for a little space to get things out.
Seeing the academic institution as a place of ideological debate and struggle is not really conducive to that goal.
I told myself that I was going to stop debating these issues with the Yascha Mounks and Heterodox academies around the world because I told myself that more important work needed to be done to help students and institutions improve.
Now after spending a good portion of this post, I’m more sure about it now than ever before.
 Yes, I was in the fraternity. I was even the president of my senior year fraternity.
 12-percent of students express at least some discomfort with discussing an “undisputed” topic, so I guess that’s what we’re noticing. It’s not clear to me.
 If you’re on Twitter and don’t follow Professor Wilson, I recommend it and read his blog. It is a consistent source of thoughtful commentary on teaching, learning, and higher education in general.
 However, I also think of an epic series of Nintendo Techmo Bowl football tournaments where we played the whole season and then the playoffs. If your game is on schedule, you have two hours to get it or the player who failed to participate will be forfeited. Did I miss class to keep my Techmo Chicago Bears in the playoffs? You bet.