Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Call me clueless"

Shmuley Boteach's article in the Jerusalem Post, "What are universities for?," is the silliest rendition of "kids today aren't like they used to be" that I've ever seen. It's the usual rant about how today's college students have too much fun and don't learn anything. Despite having been written by a rabbi and appearing in the JPost, there's nothing specifically Jewish about this most classic of conservative complaints:

"Thousands of young college students - all in their late teens and early 20s - were lounging on the sand. It was a sobering sight. The female students' beach attire was close to non-existent. Time was when the bikini was considered revealing. Today it is only for prudes and the modestly attired."

OK, he has a point. I remember college well, as it was quite recent for me, and it's true that at the University of Chicago, a bikini was considered far, far too modest.

"The simple fact is that the American campus is not a very healthy place and belies its description as a place of 'higher' education."

Can't argue with simple facts. But, since this college doesn't much resemble Chicago, I'm curious, which college in particular? Oh, I see, the one in I am Charlotte Simmons:

"Readers of [Charlotte Simmons] would scarcely believe the description of the American campus as a giant orgy filled with misogynistic men who harbor indescribable contempt for women and arrive on campus with the stated intention of bedding as many as possible. Less so would they believe the complicity with which women have joined in their own degradation."

What sort of reader of fiction would be so foolish as not to believe every last description in a novel as a fact about the real world setting on which it was based? Idiots.

Then, he explains that college seniors did worse--worse!--on a test than did college freshmen. Undeniable proof that college in fact makes you dumb! What was being tested? Boteach doesn't say. As one commenter points out, the test is probably on skills one uses in high school and not much later in life.

The end of the article is most informative:

"I now believe that parents should be looking at single-sex and religiously-inclined alternatives to the mainstream universities for their sons and daughters, schools that truly are about maturing, being educated and preparing for the mastery of both the professional and personal sectors.

I attended rabbinical college. There were no women. We were there to study, not socialize. When people ask me today how young rabbis have so much information, I tell them it has less to do with any kind of genius and more to do with the absence of socializing with the opposite sex."

Because of course it's either-or. Of all the doctoral students I know, not one engaged in college debauchery, nor had premarital sex. All follow strict, religion-based codes of ethics--acquired no doubt at single-sex religious undergrad schools--in their sexual behavior, and none would so much as consider getting drunk. That's how we, much like young rabbis, are able to "have so much information."

But my real reason for responding to this article, one which makes similar rants in places like National Review look brilliant, is this response, from the comments on Boteach's piece:

I'm not clueless
Sara Roth - USA
03/19/2007 22:56

Call me clueless but I'm still with the guy I hooked up with on Birthright. Only thing, he's not really Jewish so my parents are unhappy. But he's great. Birthright was the best thing I ever did. That guy said he won't send his daughter. Her loss. It's a safe nice environment to meet people and when you are a college kid, sex is part of it.

I have nothing to add.


Blundering American said...

Gives a whole new meaning to "birthright"...

Anonymous said...

College makes you dumb -- senior econ seminar, the UPS professor asks his four (ooh count 'em, FOUR) students what inflation rate the Fed should shoot for. Three of the replies were zero or negative numbers. If college doesn't make you dumber, perhaps licking old lead paint will...