I see two kinds of pressure working on college students today: economic pressure, parental pressure. It is easy to look around for rebels-- to blame the colleges for charging too much money, the parents for pushing their children too far. But there are no rebels, only victims.
The pressure is heavy on students who just want to graduate and get a job. If I were an employer I would rather employ graduates who have this range and curiosity than those who narrowly pursued safe subjects and high grades. I know incalculable students whose inquiring minds cheer me. I like to hear the play of their ideas. I don't know if they are getting A or C, and I don't care. I also like them as people. The country needs them, and they will find satisfying jobs. I tell them to relax. They can't.
Nor can I blame them. They live in a brutal economy.Today it is not unusual for a student, even if he works part time at college and full time during the summer, to increase to 5, 000 in loans after graduation. Encouraged at commencemerit to go forth into the world, he is already behind as he goes forth. How could he not feel under pressure throughout college to prepare for this day of reckoning?
Along with economic pressure goes parental pressure.Inevitably, the two are deeply integrated.
Poor students! They are caught in one of the oldest webs of love and duty and guilt. The parents mean well: they are trying to steer their sons and daughters toward a secure future. But the sons and daughters want to major in history or classics or philosophy-- subjects with no "practical" value.Where's the payoff on the humanities? It's not easy to persuade such loving parents that the humanities do indeed pay off. The intellectual faculties developed by studying subjects like history and classics are just the faculties that make creative leaders in business or almost any general field.
Luckily for me, most of them got into their field by an indirect route, to their surprise, after many roundabout ways.The students are startled. They can hardly conceive of a career that was not preplanned. They can hardly imagine allowing the hand of God or chance to nudge them down some unforeseen trail.