Sunday, June 11, 2006

Are college students adults?

I read the following curious quote in a NY Times article by Alan Finder entitled "For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé ":

"I think students have the view that Facebook is their space and that the adult world doesn't know about it," said Mark W. Smith, assistant vice chancellor and director of the career center at Washington University in St. Louis.

Huh? What does "adult world" really mean? Do people honestly believe that anybody who is classified as a "student" is by definition not an adult as well? We're talking about people who are old enough to drive and old enough to vote. Driving and voting are not "adult" activities??

If someone drops out of college (I did that once) or skips college entirely, are they magically an "adult"?

What is the hypothetical assumption that students are exempt for the norms of adulthood all about?

Maybe my confusion is merely my own since all I thought about in college was how to get out of college ASAP so I could do some real work and refrained from most so-called "student" activities.

Silly me, I thought the purpose of an educational institution was to prepare students for life in the "real" world. With all of the "school" problems in the limelight, what kind of preparation is actually occurring?

So, my question is: Who is it that wants students not to be treated as adults?

Is it really the students themselves? It seems to me that a lot of students are clamoring to be treated as adults (e.g., participation in institutional decisionmaking). Is it parents who prefer to think of their children as... children? Is it administrators and academics who also prefer an environment in which they are treating people as if they were not adults? Is there too much "control freak" mentality lurking behind the scenes that is fueling this process?

What is this student vs. adult dichotomy really all about?

Why are so many people acting as if the educational world needs to be kept so distant from the "real" world? If there are problems with the outside world, maybe we should focus a little more attention on at least identifyingthem if not actually fixing them rather than exacerbating them with these artificial boundaries.

I have no issue with giving people (students or not) plenty of their own "space", but if so many people feel such an intense, obsessive need to express themselves in such a dysfunctional manner, isn't that merely a signal that there are unresolved problems floating around that should be addressed on there own merit?

I'll continue to ponder the plight of "students" who are in a position where they are about to be plopped out into the "real" world, maybe even against their own will, but internally still feel the need and desire to think as if they were only children. After all, if one wants to be treated as an adult, isn't it reasonable to expect that one needs to get your mind into a "space" where you think and express yourself as if you were an adult?

OTOH, there are plenty of nominal "adults" who think and express and act out a mentalities that are far worse than much of what is being popularized about online communities.

Maybe the core problem is one of a failure to adequately communicate senses of perspective and that "perspective" is never a one-way street. Or at least that's my perspective

-- Jack Krupansky


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