Jonathan was the first to notice this article in The Chronicle of Higher Ed that is very indicative of how we infantilize students. He blogged about it here. In his post, Jonathan looked at the article from the perspective of a professor. Now I would like to consider it from the viewpoint of a student.
Imagine that the day you begin to attend college, you are subjected to the following procedures:
The first day students enter college, many are in the throes of a developmental crisis. They should be assessed in several areas, including their academic ability, social skills, study skills, vocabulary, general knowledge, work history, and community involvement. The results of these assessments would be used to identify the types of support they will need to succeed. This data and interviews with the student can lead to a learning contract between the student and the institution. Participation should be voluntary, but students who opt out would be required to sign a waiver stating they were informed about any concerns and offered appropriate services. This individualized approach would bolster many students and increase their chances for academic success.
I don’t know if I was “in the throes of a developmental crisis” when I went to college. Usually, young women are already past the crisis by the age of 18, so, once again, we are talking about an article whose author pretends that women are still not allowed to attend college.
Leaving that aside, however, I can say that I would have been very annoyed had the university where I got my BA tried to assess my social skills, work history, and community involvement. I never had and still don’t have any community involvement because the word “community” makes me cringe. I’m an autistic, so my social skills have always been quite poor. Nevertheless, I was a stellar student. During the graduation ceremony, I couldn’t leave the stage for several minutes, as the Provost kept enumerating my awards, distinctions, and prizes.
The kind of assessment this article proposes is also extremely invasive. As a student, I didn’t expect my professors to judge my life. I wanted them to impart knowledge, grade my progress, and – with all due respect to my wonderful teachers – keep away from the personal and social aspects of my existence.
I’m quite surprised that the author refers to this approach as “individualized.” What’s so individualized about judging all students on the basis of some imaginary standard of good social skills and appropriate community involvement?
Another problem with this suggestion is that it seems to imply that every student should need some kind of “support.” In case you don’t want support and feel like you are capable of dealing with the demands of college on your own, you are required to sign a waiver to this effect. In this way, self-reliant, independent, mature students are pathologized, while the overgrown babies who will need to be “supported” well into adulthood are positioned as the norm.