Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A question

A friend posted this link on Facebook, which immediately caught my attention because I had been asking myself and my students exactly the same question: Why Aren't US Students Rioting Over Crazy Tuition Hikes Like College Kids in Europe?

When I posed this question to students in my field methods seminar, they looked a bit blankly at me. Apparently they missed the coverage on Fox. (Which is usually what I saw on the screens mounted in the waiting areas outside the lecture room where I taught my ANTH 100 courses - not sure who chooses the channel, but I do not think it is necessarily the students.) I described to them the alleged "attack" on Prince Charles and his wife as their Rolls Royce took a wrong turn through the throng.

No response.

So, I found the comments in this alternet piece interesting, including Tom Hayden's observations about what prevents students from being more politically active today:

The challenges they (students) face on their campuses are far different than the past and perhaps more profound. Tuition costs at UM in 1960 were one hundred dollars, and I can’t remember if that was for a semester or an entire year. So I could obtain my degree, edit the paper, go south to the civil rights movement for two years, return and enter graduate school, and never feel I was falling behind in the competitive economic rat-race…A student today falls tens of thousands of dollars in debt, even after holding two part-time jobs, a burden which limits their career choices. Dropping out for social activism brings competitive disadvantage.

I think that my students would agree with alternet's observation about what college means today:

Public higher education is no longer seen as serving the broader social good. And if you can afford college—likely through high indebtedness—the four, five, or six years you’re there are spent making yourself more employable. Colleges aren’t enabling greater democratic citizenship anymore, they’re producing wage earners. There is a trend towards privatization and commoditization that’s quite troubling.

Which is not necessarily to say that my students would disagree with alternet. In fact, I think my students see themselves as managing, as best they can, what has been handed to them. Which itself is a stance that at times frustrates me: They see themselves as reacting, and they do not see themselves as participating, much less creating and re-creating. Is this a millennial / post-9/11 thing? B/c I just do not remember feeling so sad and defeated already at age 20: I still do not feel that now at age 40.

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