Sometimes Comments Are Out of Line

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…

34 thoughts on “Sometimes Comments Are Out of Line

  1. Maybe I’m just part of “The entitled generation, raised by the generation that had too much” but I have a lot to say about those comments. First of all, like you mentioned school is about learning from a number of different POV’s. I have learnt about stuff from more liberal professors, more conservative professors and a bunch of professors in between and I have loved learning about all the sides of the argument. You don’t have to agree with everything they teach and they most definitely don’t need to agree with all your opinions either. I took the vegan thing personally too because as a vegan I know first hand how much we have to fight to be included in meal plans. Why should students not demand vegan or any kind of specific meals when they are paying a large amount in tuition which INCLUDES meals. Also this person seems to assume that veganism is a choice which it is for many but many others just can’t digest animal products. Sorry for the rant- I just have a lot of opinions on this as a student and also I took a nap earlier and I’m a little cranky now lol.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. so well said, Pooja. I appreciate the rant. And even if veganism is a choice, that choice should be respected because most likely the person put a lot of thought into such a choice (critical thinking skills at work), and is doing something they believe makes the world a better place. Why would that upset someone?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes absolutely- I personally choose to be vegan because I think it’s making the world a better place not because I’m over privileged/don’t know how the real world works. I don’t understand why people are so offended by other peoples choices that don’t even concern them in any way. And if anything we should try to make the world more vegan friendly or just inclusive in general.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think the guilt definitely plays a role in it. Like you said they know they should be eating better but they make the choice not to and so when they see someone who is doing the opposite and trying to be healthy they get frustrated (maybe jealous?)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m 100% in your corner on this one, Jim. The incoming freshman got dealt a crappy hand. Sure, life is about overcoming adversity, but none of us had to start college (well, maybe you) during a pandemic. College isn’t for everyone, but for some like me, it was the time I made the most personal growth. Amen to multiple points of view. Maybe we wouldn’t have such a we vs. them mentality if we were more open-minded.

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  3. I’m with you, Jim. The comments are filled with judgment. The students must be scared, feeling isolated in their rooms, plus with none of the actual social interaction that is so much a part of the whole learning/life experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i’m fully with you jim. often the people who feel free to make anonymous comments have not lived it themselves, and yet are quick to judge. i think that the majority of students, profs, and admins, are doing the best they can to try to make it all work, given the situation. it seemed like some of the comments harkened back to long-standing grievances – about colleges, about young people, about politics, this has just given them a platform to vent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. great points, Beth. I agree that most people are tyring to do the best they can in the midst of great uncertainty. And you are correct that many people use the comment section just to air their grievances, even though it may not be directly related to the issue at hand.

      By the way, how was your return to school?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. In the comments we see the lack of empathy that has become so prevalent in our society today. In response to an article that discusses the trials and troubles of our college students, people find the opportunity to minimize, or outright deny, that the students are truly suffering at all. Oddly enough, the comments make me feel like the commentators are simply missing a good education. How ironic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, lack of empathy is the problem. It’s a tough time for college kids to be away from home, isolate, not able to do the things they had hoped to do. So I agree, showing a little kindness would go a long way…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, these comments are so ignorant, pompous, and frankly, just stupid. I think that the current concern in our world is not the younger generations that are making the effort to educate themselves in times such as these. If we should be concerned about a collective generation, it is the older generation that can be so rigid and righteous, and of course always right and proper. I found most of the comments infuriating, but the vegan/Kosher comment was probably the stupidest: send a vegan/Jew to the grocery store (when they are in lockdown!) to buy cold cuts (preferably ham) and milk. Perfect. While they are at it, they should also visit a church to listen to a sermon and slaughter a pig for their next Kosher/vegan meal. I could go on, but I will stop now.

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  7. College sounds like not a fun place right now. That is a shame. Students should be commended if they stick to the rules.

    I wish I was as confident about the future as you. I’m not down on young people, just Americans in general. A large part of the country seems to be remarkably susceptible to Trump dividing America. Even Trump supporters who say they know theses tactics damage the country continue to want another four years of them. I wish I found reason to be optimistic. The youngest generation may provide hope, but that’s been said before.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just feel bad for them. I remember college as such a great time. And part of that was becuase there was little to worry about. I don’t that is the case today.

      And while I agree that America is not in the best of places right now, I think we need to encourage our youth to focus on the future and how they can make it better. It’s a tall order, but I think they are fully capable. Let’s hope they are given the opportunity to do so…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. People are very judgmental about the young, Jim. I thought the whole article, including the response, was interesting. I find the young generation Z to be very concerned about the world and their fellow people. I think they are going to change the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jim, this post takes me back to my undergraduate years at Montana State (so long ago, we didn’t even use a computer). I was an accounting major for four quarters before switching to business education. Well . . . we had the opportunity to practice social distancing back then. Take an 8:00 class and the lecture hall for my Intro to Sociology course wouldn’t even be half full.

    Liked by 1 person

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