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, December 7, 2012

Keep kids with age peers? Maybe we shouldn't

In photo: the kind of silliness we can only associate with college. It has prompted an investigation at Penn State University. Just what that institution needs. It's a Mexican-themed sorority party (Chi Omega) with quite questionable taste. Are kids' interests really best served when they spend so much time with each other? St. Cloud State University is trying to restore Homecoming after a history in which it got dragged down by bad behavior. Maybe kids can learn outside the boundaries of these institutions. Remember the goalpost incident here in Morris?
Maybe young people should be liberated. They should be liberated from the shackles of being segregated with their age peers while growing up.
"Growing up" hardly describes what a lot of kids experience. Where did the notion begin that kids ought to spend nearly all of their developmental time with their age peers? I don't think the notion is really all that old. The old country school model contradicted it. Kids of varying ages were expected to work together for mutual benefit.
And first and foremost, why not let kids spend more time around adults? Don't adults set a better example by being more settled in their lives? Don't adults set a better example by their basic lifestyle? And, by their values? By having shuttered their least desirable impulses?
Kids together can be a disaster. Why can't more of us recognize this obvious fact? This regimented system of education that extends into college might in fact begin to break down. It won't necessarily break down because of enlightenment. It will break down because of the easy availability of information. We can say goodbye to that regimented system that seems almost like prison.
The analogy isn't stretched. Rules are applied with an iron hand. Kids move from room to room only on cue from "bells." They can be terrorized by instructors who say "let's have a pop quiz." The kids groan. There's an assumption that large classes of kids can be brought along at the same pace and they all have the same needs. Kids bounce from one grade to the next as if they're all advancing at the same pace. Once in college they have this progression from "freshmen" to "seniors."
There's no letup in the kind of demands that are imposed. There's an assumption that knowledge is elusive. Were it not so, we wouldn't need these elaborate bricks and mortar institutions. Well, it's "not so" anymore.
All bets are off (for keeping the status quo) in the information boom caused by electronic media. The days when colleges could be staid places that could just keep feeding at the public trough will be fading. That's why colleges, especially the large state colleges, have to guard their image more than ever.
Imagine the hair-pulling if you were involved in public relations at Penn State University. The students there didn't cause the major debacle for which you, the reader, won't need any background. Sports gave the backdrop for that. What? Sports causing turbulence? I can't imagine (LOL).
That debacle grew in part out of the established model of higher education, where sports is a cog. Sports demands success on a level that has nothing to do with the aims of education. The competitiveness can bring out the worst in human nature.
What else but sports could have encouraged the kind of ridiculous, primitive behavior that caused the death of a University of Minnesota-Morris student several years ago? That of course was in the goalpost incident. Take a close look at the young people who get involved in that kind of behavior. Are they really best served by spending so much time with their age peers? Why don't we steer them on a course that leads to maturity faster?
Penn State has a new problem. I imagine Penn State really does have a PR department. We should have those people keeping a diary. The new problem is accompanied by the word "investigation." So it's ditto what happened with that sordid mess in the athletic department. And this is an institution of learning?
The new investigation is about one of those typical "Lord of the Flies" episodes that can only involve college students. A sorority has misbehaved. It threw a racist Mexican-themed party with photos, naturally, posted to the web. It all happened around Halloween. We saw sombreros. We saw signs saying "Will mow lawn for weed and beer" and "I don't cut grass, I smoke it."
The Chi Omega Sorority has expressed regret. "Mistakes were made." (Chris Matthews always laughs about the passive voice behind that statement.)
Anyone with a college degree can remember much silly behavior surrounding them as they "matriculated." I would say boomers, especially so. If your parents are boomers, don't expect them to be honest about this. They have probably blotted a lot of this out. Boomers went to college at a time when society decided the doors of our institutions should swing open wider and let more in. After all, college prior to that time was marked by great exclusivity. Too much exclusivity. Institutions like my alma mater, St. Cloud State University, adopted the philosophy of letting young people swarm in.
It's laudable to want young people to learn. But the old model for learning may be showing cracks because of the new age we're in. To repeat: we are saturated with information now. Kids really do want to learn. They simply must be given a feeling that their learning will benefit them. Too much of the knowledge dispensed in what I'd call the "analog" system didn't fit that bill. There was an assumption that kids had to be dragged along in learning. "Take out a sheet of paper, we'll have a pop quiz."
I don't blame kids for groaning if they were taking a course like "Sociology 101." Or anthropology, or foreign languages taught in anything but immersion-style.
We allowed college academic disciplines almost to become like "rackets" unto themselves. Many of these problems will fade as public money, i.e. money direct from taxpayers, becomes less of the higher education funding pie. Pure public funding seems to lead to amorphous and ossified tortoises. Kids are gaining empowerment from the Internet. They can gain knowledge more on their own terms. They can assert themselves more as individuals. Thus they needn't be confined to the narrow parameters of a "class" (as in freshman, sophomore etc., or prior to that, a grade in public school)
Herding kids into "classes" will increasingly be seen as a practice akin to prison. A member of our Morris Area school board has described many of the newly-built public schools as looking like "prisons on the outskirts of town." I have been reminded of that quote when driving past the KMS school. Those poor kids are segregated into classes, assigned reading that may not feed their real needs, and made to feel brethren only with kids within an age range of one year.
As a kid, a mere one year age difference from a fellow student is drastic, putting you in separate worlds. Years later we look back and think that was strange. But society decided it was progress to move beyond the one-room school model. Just like society decided in the 1960s we had to have the doors swing open at institutions like St. Cloud State. Let the swarms of boomer youth in. Shudder.
Many of the young people didn't even develop proper respect for the institutions. Look how Homecoming at St. Cloud State devolved. It devolved so bad it got canceled. Students there are now trying to revive it.
St. Cloud State is the second largest university in Minnesota. It is nothing if not big. A non-binding student body vote has recommended Homecoming come back. But SCSU spokesman Adam Hammer put down the hammer with this statement: "It's premature to make any conclusions about the vote or what might follow it. Those conversations haven't been had yet."
It's amazing SCSU treats the matter as so sensitive - walking on eggshells. Homecoming is innocuous, isn't it? Well, it ought to be. In the old days it was.
Young people are restless today. Maybe the old models just aren't working for them anymore. Maybe they can find their own way. Maybe they can become the kind of self-starters we've always wanted them to be anyway. And take off those sombreros.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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