Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Beyond Venial


Thomas H. Benton has provided a fine indictment of students and the professoriate in the Chronicle. He enumerates seven deadly sins for each (here and here). They are the conventional seven, so if the firewall is a bar, don’t think you’ve missed any new ideas for fun, but the anecdotes within are telling. The list for professors echoes age-old complaints, found easily in Lucky Jim, or Changing Places, or Small World or Other Academic Novel, but the student list packs a punch. Look to his entry for student gluttony:

But there are other manifestations of gluttony these days. For example, when did it become acceptable for students to eat and drink in class as if they were sitting in a cafeteria? Nowadays, I occasionally encounter a student who thinks it’s OK to consume a large, messy, and odorous meal in class. I once saw a student eat an entire rotisserie chicken, a tub of mashed potatoes with gravy, several biscuits, and an enormous soft drink during the first 10 minutes of a lecture. I felt like a jester in the court of Henry VIII.

This experience is disturbingly frequent. Students seem to have no sense of decorum or respect for professors. I once saw a student happily tote a collapsing sandwich into class. The professor cautioned him about eating on the table, saying that the university would be “uncomfortable” with it. The student blithely replied that he would be careful, and that he had no time to eat elsewhere. It turned out that the university was “uncomfortable” with students eating at the table because Woodrow Wilson once sat at it.

Class is a baseball game to such students.

At the same time these students are noisily tucking into the concessions, Benton points out the corollary tendency of arrogance:

I once asked a group of 20 students how many thought they were “better than their parents”? All of them raised their hands. I didn’t ask, but I assume they all believed they were better than their teachers too.

This is a disconcertingly frequent experience at American colleges, where students seem to believe that their mastery of a thicket of SAT, ACT, and essay-writing tasks proves that they’re better than their parents, who’ve actually accomplished something, or, at the very least, pay to send their preening brats to college.   


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