Call this writer a cynic, but all this caterwauling from students at the nation’s “elite” universities is getting on her nerves…and she says this as a graduate of a university that consistently makes the top 25 list.
This week, the school president at Oklahoma Wesleyan told the students there to grow up, and in a way, Dennis Prager said the same thing to a Columbia University student named Nissy Aya who was a panelist for an article in the school newspaper. A quote attributed to her:
“It’s traumatizing to sit in Core classes. We are looking at history through the lens of these powerful, white men. I have no power or agency as a black woman, so where do I fit in?”
Carpooling to high school, one of my classmates said the same sort of thing to her father about taking Algebra II. She was going to be a writer so when was she ever going to use it? (Algebra and geometry are NOT about the math. They are about the thought processes, theories, and abstract concepts. And, yes, you do need them, and no they are not easy for everyone. Calculus is another story.)
Just curious about a few things at Columbia…do they talk about Genghis Kahn, Mahatma Gandhi, Frederick Douglas…these weren’t “powerful white men,” but they did have impact on history.
Like my classmate, Ms. Aya and the other college students out there complaining about university curricula, oppression, institutional racism, and non-safe spaces…could it be that the subjects these people are griping about hold little interest for them? Or that the subject matter forces them to open their minds in such a way so as to be uncomfortable with a mentality or way of living? Are they looking for a way to always be right and never have their opinions challenged? Or could it be that the professors or the fluorescent lights in the lecture halls are putting them to sleep? (This is what did me in in physics.) Could it be that they would rather be trying to figure out a way to go out of town and see a concert and still maintain grades rather than study…okay, that was the girl we carpooled with in high school.
It doesn’t matter what the reasoning is, this grousing is reminiscent of some girls in my 5th grade class who would say, “But I don’t understand,” in order to avoid doing any sort of hard work. This may not be the case – these people may truly be traumatized by sights, sounds and ideas they have never seen, heard, or understood before – but none of them could possibly hold up in the real world if they think that the rest of us exist to coddle, comfort, and accommodate them. No, it is not the easiest thing to hear from an audition judge “GET OVER IT” when it comes to being nervous, but been there, done that. It’s not the easiest thing to hear from your pastor that your voice is “not right” to sing at church, either. Learning to take it? That’s called being an adult.
Learning a core and standard curriculum in western university education, yeah, that’s about understanding that culture is not just about who appears in the Pirella Calendar without any clothes on, or who which Kardashian is dating this week. It’s about depth of thinking and understanding. No, not every subject including those of high art and culture is interesting to every person.
- This writer absolutely DOES NOT get poetry. She really, really HATES poetry. But, she still had to take the class in a university setting in large part because the larger culture loves poetry.
- There are people who dislike classical music. As a classically trained singer, I have sympathy for not being fond of Bach. (He’s a bit long-winded, and his vocal music is meant for a much lighter voice.) How anyone cannot see the BRILLIANCE of the entire body of Mozart’s music is another story. He instinctively knew how to compose for every instrument, most especially the voice.
- In his column on this topic, Dennis Prager mentions Leonardo Da Vinci. As vital as Da Vinci is in the Renaissance, Michelangelo was the pinnacle of art in that time period. Art, as in the physical media, though, is essential to living understanding history in any culture. That needs to be stressed.
- Shakespeare…this is meant to be seen on the stage, not read in a book. It makes more sense that way. Besides, there was a lot more going on than just one of the most astute observers of human nature to live writing plays.
It is quite normal in the course of growing up to question the whys and wherefores of any topic, and subjects studied in school. It is also quite normal to leave school thinking that saving the world is doable. (Figuring out that it isn’t possible comes later.) What is not normal is allowing young people air time and bandwidth to disparage rights of passage in growing up that the wider culture as deemed appropriate and necessary. And that is where the elders, as it were, of Oklahoma Wesleyan and other schools telling the kiddies to “grow up” is the parenting they should have received in the wise fool stage of high school (that would be sophomore year).
What really isn’t part of the idea of education and acquired knowledge, though, is asking “where do I fit in”? None of us fits into history, or the great arts unless we make a success of it in any one field. Until we do, we are the heirs of the great achievements in western culture. What we do with that inheritance is up to us. And to think that the culture is oppressing one from being great is to adopt a construct that will act as pins to a butterfly. Someone needs to tell the kiddies that. And someone also needs to tell them that there are just some things in life that they need to know and understand in order to be the “universal” person a university education is supposed to form. And, yes, that does mean learning subjects that do not appear to have any other life application. Sooner or later, WHY those subjects are learned will be figured out.