Colleges seem to have lost their way. I think about that as I follow the blatant breaking of rules at so many schools – North Carolina! Notre Dame! Syracuse!
But it is not just football and basketball. More and more, college seems to be a highly expensive country club, forcing less affluent students to mortgage their futures for the right diploma, the right contacts (never mind the right education.)
The food services. The pools and health clubs. The exotic “study” programs abroad.
Now we are reminded that colleges can also be a breeding ground for prejudice and arrogance. Fraternity boys and their girls (I deliberately do not use the words “men and women”) at the University of Oklahoma chanting vile (and apparently traditional) doggerel about African-Americans while in formal wear on a chartered bus.
What a caricature of America, no doubt leading to the racist scams of places like Ferguson, Mo.
These privileged fraternity louts and city officials take their cues from the highest court in the land:
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote with smug assurance in the 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act.
Fortunately, David L. Boren, president at Oklahoma, came down hard on the punks and punkettes who rode the charter bus. He shut down the fraternity house, which should be razed, just to exorcise the bigotry, and he has ordered two ringleaders expelled. Boren’s righteous anger was appropriate, but there is a broader question:
Why have colleges become a haven for rich boosters to underwrite powerful basketball and football teams that have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with education?
Yet at the same time, less affluent students cannot keep pace with the tuition and luxuries at the landmark schools? It’s all connected, you know.
In the Times on Monday, Joe Nocera discussed better ways to deliver actual education at a reasonable price. There needs to be a way for qualified students to learn from the best schools and teachers, via the web at times.
Three separate articles and columns in the Times on Monday, all describing higher education out of control. But now it’s time for March Madness, prime athletes shoehorned into “college” for a year – I’m talking about you, Kentucky -- another gross caricature of higher education.
Have a good bracket.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.