While many parents are afforded the opportunity to shield their children from many aspects of the “real” world in childhood and several even into their adult life, my parents chose not to or were unable to do this. Early on in my life my family encountered obstacles that were unavoidable and my parents were powerless in protecting me from the circumstances. I learned then that the world could be vicious but that the only way to conquer the mountain was to go over it. My parents were wise people and knew that exposure to an “adult” event would happen eventually. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your view) for the parents of the world, they get to choose: do children get shielded from the world, experience the world with a guiding hand, or experience the world independently.
In a similar way, universities have this choice. The difference is parents make the choice for those still in their childhood, while universities are dealing with individuals who are legally adults. The institutions of higher education can choose to be the protector, the mentor that allows students to face reality with a nudge in the “right” direction here and there, or be a supportive spectator. Personally, I do not believe it is the universities’ job to ensure that their students are “protected” from the world in the sense that students should remain sheltered. Yes, universities should provide the services needed to ensure safety as any community would. However, they should not be expected to buffer the harsh realities of the world. For those who have not already gotten a dose of reality by the time they leave home for college, it is important that they get a wake up call while attending. Students cannot be successful in a euphoric world with false expectations. This means that when a student chooses a major that is unlikely to result in a return worth the price of obtaining said major, they should be informed and encouraged to consider double majoring or following a more promising path while keeping their passion as a hobby. It means that unfortunate events should not be kept quiet for the “good” of the student body. It means that students should no longer get participation awards and told that showing up is the standard of the world… It’s not. College should prepare individuals for success in the work force. Allowing students to pursue a degree in something only a handful of people can actually earn a living doing because they “like” it is not preparing them for the real world. Hiding or keeping quiet “adult” events is not a thing of the real world either. Eventually this group of students will be the adults. Do we really want them to be naïve to the world as it is? More importantly, can society handle another generation of people who believe simply showing up is entitlement for a raise?
Providing necessary securities is one thing, but being a buffer is excessive and could do more harm than good. People need to make mistakes in college and learn for themselves what to do to fix those issues.On a campus, young adults have the support they need to make these mistakes and seek counsel. Later in life the support is no longer available to the extent that it is in a university. Students need to understand that life is not always rosy. Being protective or even just being a guiding hand as an institution would be hazardous to those attempting to find themselves and it would jeopardize the abilities of graduates to cope with tough situations and decisions on their own, as they will have to do eventually.
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