Even though I might sometimes disagree with some of the items they publish, I love the WSJ.
Check my blog; dozens of posts I have written over the past five years have been based on something I’ve read in the Journal.
Just ask my students. It’s usually how I start off each class, talking about the highlights of that day’s paper.
I also enjoy reading the comments that accompany many of the stories, both for their insight and for their humor.
But sometimes, the comments are just too much.
Take a story in today’s paper for example: “The College Student’s Guide to Back-to-School Quarantine: Pop-Tarts, Cross-Stitch, Prison Morse Code.”
The story takes a look at how colleges and students are struggling to find the best way to start off the semester. For some schools that are reopening campus, isolation and quarantine have replaced the welcome parties and packed social schedules that usually kick off the school year. Thousands of college students have been forced to stay in solitary lockdown upon arrival, due to tight travel restrictions enacted by states including New York and Vermont. The hope is that if students go through the quarantine, and then continue to wear masks, wash their hands and avoid large groups once they are allowed out of their rooms, the schools won’t have to revert to online instruction like they did in the spring.
The story then goes on to profile several students and what they are doing to cope with the isolation:
- one student has been bingeing episodes of “Big Brother” and FaceTiming with friends and family while staying alone in his on-campus apartment. He and a neighbor sometimes tap on the wall to see if they can hear each other, prisoner-style.
- another student has been doing virtual information sessions for jobs, practicing coding, and participating in a school-sponsored trivia event. She is documenting some of her experiences on YouTube, including filming herself putting on makeup and working out. But she also admits that “there’s a time in the day when it slows down, you’re just laying on your bed scrolling through TikTok feeling like there’s nothing else to do.”
- students at one University have posted widely on social media to complain about unappetizing meat and meals that don’t meet kosher or vegan restrictions.
- another college offered a stapled packet of coloring pages featuring past exhibitions from the school’s art museum for its students as well as a virtual cross-stitching class; the school provided the materials and gave instructions over Zoom. They offered two pandemic-themed patterns: messages reading “Wash Your Hands” and “Wear A Mask.”
Students at all levels have had their world turned upside down these past few months. In that way, they are no different than the rest of us. The world has been a strange place for everyone this year.
And just like no one knows the single best way to manage the pandemic, no one knows what the best way to react to and cope with the pandemic. Well, no one except some readers of the WSJ.
Here are some comments from the article:
- How to fill all those hours? Uhm… why not read some books get a head start on the fall curriculum?
- the academic experience will be even more vapid and boring, with the gender and race studies and ivory tower profs droning on ad infinitum.
- You would think an institution of higher learning would at least encourage kids to do what I and most of my fellow boomers did during periods of “inactivity,” READ (as in books), especially now that all of the world’s libraries are available to them on digital devices (many of the greatest books ever written free of charge). But schools don’t encourage it and kids are interested only in the banal, vapid entertainment of social media for their 5-second dopamine fix.
- Meals that didn’t meet vegan restrictions. They’re going to love the working world…
- Why go through that when half of the courses will be online anyway? Instead, do the online courses from home, look for a part time job and teach yourself through books. This will save a good amount on costs this year. That is a way better use of your time and money.
- How much effort does it take to go to the nearest grocery store, buy a loaf of bread, mayo, cold cuts, milk and fruit? The entitled generation, raised by the generation that had too much.
- these people shouldn’t be given the right to vote for at least another decade, based on their absolute lack of discernment or intellectual or moral/ethical formation.
- Today, a liberal arts degree is suspect. It is an indoctrination pamphlet delivered by so-called educators with grievances.
- We are doomed.
- The utter worthlessness of today’s college education writ large. No critical thinking in evidence anywhere.
Maybe I’m too close to the situation. Maybe my school and my students are the exceptions. But I don’t think so.
Many students are worried. I have met several students who have had one or both parents lose their job because of the pandemic. I teach freshmen; they lost out on their senior year of high school and they were looking forward to going to college where things would hopefully be different. They are away from their family; isolated from their friends. As far as I know, there’s no playbook that offers advice on how to get through a pandemic when you’re 20 years old and being quarantined and isolated.
But apparently, the people who comment in the WSJ do know what’s best. I’m sure they were perfect students if and when they went to college. I’m sure they were using their spare time to read ahead or to be constantly productive. I’m sure that’s how they spent their time during the pandemic.
I’m sure the colleges they all went to were perfect as well, but somewhere along the way those colleges changed for the worst. Are there professors who might voice an opinion that’s different than the opinion of a comment writer to the WSJ? I sure hope so. To me, that’s what colleges do. They expose people to a variety of opinions and encourage students to develop their own. One commenter complained that colleges don’t teach critical thinking. I guess what the person wants is a college teaching what the commenter thinks; how dare they teach something that’s counter to what the commenter believes. But that’s not critical thinking. That’s just supporting your personal belief system.
And the comment about the vegan thing probably hits too close to home as well. What’s wrong with trying to stick to a commitment you made, such as being a vegan? To me, that shows strength of character, and some critical thinking to arrive at such a decision.
And even though I teach in the business school, I am a strong proponent of the liberal arts. To me, they are the heart and soul of a college. I hope they continue to be, despite the beliefs of some WSJ readers that they are useless.
When I look back at the thousands of students I have taught, and the students I am currently teaching, I don’t think we are doomed at all. My students make me optimistic about the future, despite what some comments at the WSJ have to say…