History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Climbing toward maturity in fits and starts

UMM students make the rounds on campus in this late-August photo. (B.W. photo)
We are increasingly a no-nonsense society. We used to look at college students' irresponsible behavior and sort of shrug. We dismissed it as largely a rite of passage.
We might have thought elements of it were cute. Just don't damage my property please.
A writer who recently speculated on the possible death of college football said it could be a good thing for our colleges. No longer would football "game day" be an excuse for college students to drink and carry on in such a rambunctious fashion.
Increasingly our society shuns alcohol not to mention smoking. Our law enforcement prioritizes seat belt in a way the WWII generation would find incomprehensible. The state of North Dakota gets torn apart over something as trivial as a school sports nickname and logo.
The foolishness of college football "game day" was impressed on us here in Morris with the goalpost incident. Someone got killed in that. The demise of football (with concussion awareness) might mean college campuses would stay civilized through the weekend. People could continue attending to the business that brought them there.
For a long time we have seemed to put up with the idea that college is an extended adolescence. Maybe subconsciously at least, we are beginning to question this.
Maybe the economy gives us pause too. The economy has made multi-generation households more practical. Maybe young people can give more serious thought to "staying home" once high school is done. Not to be idle, mind you. The landscape is dotted with places where one can take classes. Stay close to home maybe. The Internet is an ever-growing vehicle for personal advancement that allows you to progress from anywhere.
Do any of us doubt that a substantial number of 18 year olds aren't ready to go out and live on their own? Maybe they need to put aside textbooks and take "life skills" seriously for a while.
We have seen an early indicator of change at St. Cloud State University (my alma mater). The announcement was made a couple years ago that Homecoming was done.
Homecoming would seem to be a pure and admirable part of school life. Maybe the problem was my generation and its shunning of tradition. But instead of just leaving Homecoming alone, we had to abuse it. Why? Because it was there, I guess. We abused it like those bratty kids abuse that school bus monitor in that viral video.
St. Cloud State was an institution that swung the doors wide for the boomer generation, starting in about the mid 1960s. Prior to that, college was considered an elite place. It was elusive for many of us, or so we were told.
Why should the acquisition of knowledge be a scarce activity? Even in the pre-Internet days, there were libraries all around us. The recently deceased Ray Bradbury, the wonderfully gifted science fiction writer and futurist, was fond of telling people he was "a graduate of the Los Angeles Public Library."
Bradbury was one of the thinkers profiled in the book "Blue Collar Intellectuals." Milton Friedman was another. Friedman the economist once earned money selling fireworks from a roadside stand. The book treated these people as though they were novelties - people from a common background who entered the life of the mind.
We shouldn't be so surprised though. Today the barriers to knowledge have come down completely. So thorough is that saturation, I think we're all taking a harder look at college and wondering if the experience needs to be sharpened. If students can't act more like adults, maybe they shouldn't be students.
Why should we frown when a house in our neighborhood is turned over fully or in part to student housing? Why are laws even enacted to draw limits on this? It's like we're concerned with some pest invasion. Morris legend has it the reason a restaurant has a $1.50 minimum purchase is college students. Why did some students abuse the privilege of entering a Morris business?
We realize many students have limited funds, although I think that's exaggerated some. If their intent is to "hang out," they can do that on campus. That's their more appropriate environment anyway. Don't mistake this for segregation. I'm just pointing out that students have a culture different from non-students.
And perhaps this culture is dysfunctional in some respects. All elements of a college student's life should help that person get established on a mature basis later. If that's not the overriding purpose of college, we're misguided. I think increasingly we are recognizing this.
Cancelling Homecoming at St. Cloud State was drastic. But the administration in its wisdom knew they were in trouble there. Whereas there was a time when many of us thought St. Cloud State's party image might be a little cute, the worm is turning. The foolishness associated with the St. Cloud State Homecoming, at its height, was jaw-dropping. People have described some of those scenes as outright riots.
An occasion to honor the school and its traditions was abused. Why? It has become an element of college student culture that it's quite fine to do so. This is the element that causes limits on off-campus housing. It's the element that persuades a restaurant owner he has to post a $1.50 minimum purchase sign.
This sign on the face of it poses problems. For regular adults, it can't be enforced literally. Sometimes you're in a restaurant with a party that intends to spend lots of money, but you yourself aren't hungry. Maybe you drive past a restaurant, notice a vehicle of someone you know and dash in just a chat for a minute. A salesman will meet a client in a restaurant and not necessarily be interested in spending a lot of money.
A restaurant owner wouldn't make an issue of these people. But college kids seem to have "recognizable spots."
If we are proud of have UMM in town - we most certainly are - we shouldn't have any problem with UMM students among us. It's no St. Cloud State for frivolous behavior, but the usual issues arise sometimes - loud partying at night etc. I heard a pretty vivid story about a party of that type this past spring.
The question I'm asking is this: are we as a society not as willing to dismiss this behavior any more? Are we not as willing to accept the college student lifestyle as an aberration? If it truly is an aberration maybe it needs to be discouraged, or at least the elements of it that mature adults find unnerving.
A prolonged adolescence? Maybe the kids could deal with these issues while still living at home. At least there, the guiding hand and example of their parents would be present. They could master life skills slowly rather than being thrust into an environment where they often throw up their hands. College shouldn't be "Lord of the Flies."
UMM is apparently getting a new dormitory. There is talk of making the food service fee mandatory for all students.
I suspect that most students who live off-campus and buy groceries for their food don't eat as well as they should. They might deny this. A trait of young people is they consider themselves invulnerable. They miss breakfast and think nothing of it. They grab a donut. It's not enough. It surely affects their academic performance.
Perhaps UMM is moving to create a more insulated environment - less of those little "mobs" of UMM students in marginal off-campus housing. This isn't "Lord of the Flies."
I think UMM is to be commended, if in fact this is what they're doing. St. Cloud State is to be commended too although it's more than mere patchwork there. It's an overhaul. We are a no-nonsense society that insists on personal responsibility and being good custodians for our neighborhoods.
I used to think law enforcement wouldn't pull over just anyone for seat belt. They wouldn't pull over an elderly couple of their way to church, for example. Today my eyes are opened. Personal responsibility is enforced everywhere. "Fighting Sioux" is no longer an innocuous nickname.
It's futile to resist any of this, even if the seat belt enforcement comes off as draconian and annoying, especially in our small outstate (Mayberry-like) communities.
I suspect only one thing could upset the whole apple cart: a full-fledged economic depression. When a substantial number of people become desperate for food, you won't see police officers on the prowl giving citations with triple-figure fines. It will no longer be practical.
One writer wonders if football will survive. One has to wonder if the traditional college model itself will survive. Degrees cost more and they seem to be worth less.
And if the typical college student lifestyle comes more under scrutiny, the higher education bubble could burst even faster.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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