Groomed for Dependency
After listing a number of the ways in which college students are catered to, Jonah Goldberg gives the lesson (unfortunately, subscription required):
But even as this sensitivity is being cultivated, the student is stuffed to the gills with cant about the corruption of “the system,” i.e., the real world just outside the gates of his educational Shangri-La. He is taught that it is brave to be “subversive” and cowardly to be “conformist.” Administrators encourage kitschy reenactments of 1960s radicalism by celebrating protest as part of a well-rounded education — so long as the students are protesting approved targets, those being the iniquities of “the system.” There is much Orwellian muchness to it all, since these play-acting protests and purportedly rebellious denunciations of the status quo are in fact the height of conformity.
But it is a comfortable conformity, and this student — who in all likelihood will go into a profession at the pinnacle of the commanding heights of our culture — looks at this Potemkin world and thinks it is the way things are supposed to be. He feels freer than he ever has or ever will again, but that freedom is illusory. He is, in fact, a dependent: All his fundamental needs are met and paid for by others. This is what the political theorists call positive liberty — when someone else gives you a whole pile of stuff so you can be “free” to do whatever you want.
Goldberg goes on to concede that many students must work while in college and/or take out loans that place them immediately behind the borrowing/saving curve. I’d argue, though, that the “ideal life” that college represents for “a certain type of elite student” stands as an example even for those who don’t manage to live it. The culture tells them, as it tells those on the pre-paved path, that the liberty to learn is still the ideal, and part of the reason they work and incur debt is to reach that ideal lifestyle that is presumed to continue in an easier life of fulfilling, remunerative work.
Life isn’t really that way, though, and much damage can and will continue to be done in attempts to bend reality to conform with the experience of the quad.