More on Student Infantilization

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.

19 thoughts on “More on Student Infantilization”

  1. I already think of employers demanding to include the assessments’ results in resume. And of companies wanting to buy the info for all kinds of purposes. May be I am paranoid and they won’t want it anyway. Why buy, when you can demand from job applicants to provide it for free?

    Besides, academic ability, study skills, vocabulary and general knowledge imo are checked enough, or should be checked, *before* being acepted to uni. That’s what test scores from school diploma and Psychometric Entrance Test’s results are for. I don’t want to go into “school scores don’t measure intelligence” arguments, I believe they do measure knowledge of the subjects and to succeed even a bright student has to apply oneself.

    As for work history and community involvement – why would uni be interested in that? Helping students find a job is one of tasks that uni tries to help in, but interested people will apply themselves anyway. No need to waste resources on interviewing every new student. Ditto for programs of community involvement for money.

    For fun – see truly weird news of the day:
    http://bigthink.com/ideas/39847

    Quote: PETA “announced that it will be launching its own porn Web site. The aim of launching the Web site is to raise awareness of veganism by offering pornographic material alongside graphic footage of animal mistreatment.”

    It’s like something from the Onion, right? I am not often surprised, but here…

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    1. The aim of launching the Web site is to raise awareness of veganism by offering pornographic material alongside graphic footage of animal mistreatment.

      That sounds like a way to give people some really horrible fetishes …. and also totally counterproductive.

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    2. PETA has been getting weirder and weirder. I read this news today in the morning but didn’t blog about it because I was afraid I was running a fever and it was a weird delirium I was having.

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  2. The article is rather extreme and silly, but I fail to see how recognizing that some students are not academically and/or socially prepared for college and providing services for them is infantalizing them. Considering that American campuses often take students far away from their homes and stick them in rooms, classes, and clubs with total strangers on an insular campus, it’s a wonder that any students are actually socially prepared. I don’t think these services should be mandatory, but given the current set-up of American colleges, I think they should exist and that students should be reminded of them occasionally.

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    1. I agree, but don’t all those services already exist, and students can ask for help, if they think they need it? If it’s voluntarily, I am fully for it.

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      1. They usually exist, but could often be improved. Also, I have found that students are often unaware of them. For example, most American universities have a writing center, where students can get free help with their writing. You would not believe the number of students I have informed of the existence of this center. If they don’t know that, which seems (to me anyways) like a fairly basic thing that students might need assistance with at a university, then it’s not that surprising that they don’t also know that they can get nutritional counseling, or that this counseling isn’t only for people with eating disorders/on a doctor’s orders.

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    2. ” Considering that American campuses often take students far away from their homes and stick them in rooms, classes, and clubs with total strangers on an insular campus,”

      -I think the students in need of real assistance are the ones who don’t go far away from their home and don’t get a chance to live on campus.

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      1. I was actually making a comparison with countries/cities where this type of all-encompassing experience isn’t the norm, not between on-campus and commuter living. In the US, I agree with you, but I don’t think places where the system is different for everyone are necessarily worse off. Nor am I against living on campus or American colleges or anything like that, I’m just saying that it is a new social situation to adjust to and it is understandable why some students need extra support. Recognizing this is not infantilizing students, as having difficulty adjusting to something is a perfectly adult behavior, as is forgetting about the numerous support centers you were given brochures to one day in orientation.

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  3. “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.”

    This is the whole agenda in America right now. I always check the local news in Arizona since I consider this state to be the bellwether of where America is going in general. Sad but true. Check this out.

    http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/freedoms-ring/Content?oid=3133482

    This little piece is about the Koch brothers setting up a “freedom center” in the department of philosophy in the U. of A. I already posted about the gateway economic courses in Florida State where the Koch brothers not only had veto over the hires for course instructor but also dictated the content of the introductory courses. Good if you like right wing, libertarian voodoo economics but a fantasy world to main stream economists. This center in U of A is dedicated to Rudolph Steiner`s ‘Die ‘Philosophie der Freiheit“, a minor 19th century philosopher to which I hadn`t paid much attention. I would be interested in your opinion especially as to how this fits into the Koch brother`s agenda.

    The other point is no matter how independent and mature students can be, they also have to have access to hard data or they can’t argue against revealed truth from authorities. I earlier gave Canadian examples such as the elimination of the census long form. As of next year, the Canadian census bureau won’t be publishing such basic data as marriage and divorce rates. This is appalling for a developed country but a dumber society is great for right wing demagogues. The same thing is true for the States. I discovered today that the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which is the main data aggregator for the American census bureau since 1878, will be eliminated next year for “budgetary reasons.“ Too bad if you want to critique the government PR. From now on, they`ll just pat you on the head and say we`re right because we have the facts.

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    1. N G: I discovered today that the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which is the main data aggregator for the American census bureau since 1878, will be eliminated next year for “budgetary reasons.“

      My God. Has this been reported to a think tank which might be able to take it over, or anything like that???

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      1. It’s not just the Statistical Abstract that is at risk. From the Free government info website:

        On July 22 (2011), the House passed a bill that would remove funding for FDsys, reduce funding for GPO by 20%, and reduce funding for the Superintendent of Documents by 16% (Kelley). The House Report on the bill also directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on “the privatization of the GPO” and the transfer of the Superintendent of Documents and the FDLP to the Library of Congress (page 25).

        http://freegovinfo.info/node/3416

        If the Government Printing Office was privatized and the Federal data system (public online access system) eliminated then easy public access to many government documents from the executive branch, Congress and the Senate would be severely constrained if not ended. The Republicans have been fighting for years to put up firewalls to public access to government documents and with the acquiescence of the current Whitehouse incumbent will get their way. This is important because there are many hidden things in bills which are ignored by the sound bites and pronouncements of officials.

        For example from the Politico website an official pronouncement:

        H.R. 1981 is a common sense bill that will reduce child pornography on the Internet and spare thousands of children from being sexually exploited. It is hard to believe that anyone would stand in the way of protecting our children from sexual predators.”

        Sounds ok? But:

        It would give the government (FBI etc.) sweeping authority (i.e. warrantless ) to mandate the collection and retention of personal information obtained by business (Internet provider)from their customers(you), or generated by the business in the course of providing services, for subsequent examination without any reason to believe that information is relevant or necessary for a criminal investigation

        Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/58772.html#ixzz1Vt8ocgNV

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  4. That’s interesting:

    1) Before University, Quebec’s students are more infantilized than Americans.

    2) During the University, Quebec’s students are less infantilized than Americans.

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  5. It’s for professors, too. We keep having to sign all of these safety memos, instructions on how to eat a healthy diet, how to make sure your credit cards are not stolen, etc. A friend with a research job for the Federal government says they have to constantly sign all of these memos, too.

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  6. Regarding community involvement: the new trend right now is service learning classes (or classes with a service learning component). I have to say I’m torn on that one (I’ve blogged about it in the past). On one hand, in my institution, it’s applied to mandatory classes for the major, which is wrong. Furthermore, the first time I had to teach such a class, I had no preparation whatsoever. Big nightmare (second time went smoother). But I’ve also found out that 80% of the students really liked it, because they felt they could really put their language skills to use in a situation that was not artificial. It was also really challenging for them, which they appreciated.

    Like

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