Read about it here. The movement for a generation or so has been toward a lifestyle of increasing freedom on our college campuses. That’s meant “no rules” (beyond those connected with health-and-safety, and so no smoking and free condoms) and single-sex dorms. It’s also meant dorms full of reckless drinking and “hooking up.” (That is–hooking up for the strong and “sexile” for the weak. The latter can’t go back to their rooms until given permission by their more attractive and successsful roommates.)
Meanwhile (and I won’t bore you or me with linking studies that document the obvious), classes are easier than ever and students are studying less. Classes are also probably more boring–what with the powerpoint and all. Not to mention what I’ve said before: Too many classes are taught by “contingents” or part-timers, and the incentives for faculty excellence are increasingly weighted toward research and away from teaching (even at four-year colleges). One fact I recently read: The average American kid in college right now has a B plus average while studying no more than a couple of hours a day. And I could go on to show it’s amazing how few real books (vs. textbooks) most college students read these days, often fewer than they read at home.
Another problem plaguing student life at liberal arts colleges: The widening gender gap, with 60+% of students now women. That fact artificially inflates the self-esteem of already vain and lazy men. It subjects women to a “competitive marketplace” far more rigorous than the natural selection described by Darwin. Everyone knows, of course, that women of college age are significantly more mature than men. They’re much more about planning for marriage or at least enduring relationships. But the scarce resources of men-children aren’t properly incentivized to attend to or even inquire about the grown-up woman’s hopes and needs. So women, it seems to me, are much stuck with hooking up at college than they would put up with in real life.
So, on balance, we can say that college is both really expensive and screws kids up. It doesn’t prepare them at all for real-world responsibilities. And so it would be easy to conclude that the brick-and-mortar college has outlived its usefulness unless it reforms–or gets over the illusions of liberation of the Sixties. Back to single-sex dorms is certainly a good start.
The college at which I teach–Berry College–is an exception to the general rule, as I will explain later.