Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tommclaughlin@fairpoint.net

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Growing Up


“Kids grow up fast today,” people often say, but not always in ways that benefit society or the kids themselves. They’re usually referring to sexual awareness beginning much earlier than it used to. Girls menstruate earlier than they did in previous generations and we’re not sure why. Increased use of artificial hormones in animals and consumer products is suspect, but there are no certain conclusions and there doesn’t seem to be any corresponding early onset of puberty in boys. Aside from the physical, however, the kind of maturation that would make us productive members of society seems to be slowing down.

Far more American kids go to college today than did in previous generations. Taxpaying adults who underwrite much of their education at both public and private universities have a right to expect that there would be a commensurate increase in the collective wisdom of the generation they’re subsidizing. There are no quantitative methods of measuring wisdom that I know of, but anecdotal observations of today’s college students indicate the opposite is occurring, and unless they’re studying hard science or engineering, what they’re learning academically is often less valuable than what they might otherwise learn in the working world.

Yet public schools constantly tell students they won’t be successful unless they go to college and I’ve been thinking that’s not such a good idea. Many accepted as freshmen are deemed unqualified to take college writing or college math unless they first take remedial courses for full tuition, but for no credit. How then, I ask, did they ever pass high school English or high school math? Other high school seniors who insist they’re going to attend college don’t seem to know why. Either they’re not sure what they want to major in or they change several times during their college career and take an average of six years to finish a four-year course of study - often piling up huge debt the whole time. When they finally graduate, they’re almost as likely to move back in with their parents as go out and get a job. What can they do with a degree in Art History, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, or Queer Studies anyway?

They could go on a quest to “find themselves” as so many young people claim to have been doing since the screwball sixties, while the rest of society enables an ever-extending adolescence. Democrats pushing health care “reform,” recently attached President Obama’s plan to forgive their student loans which for many are well into the tens of thousands. They also want government and insurance companies to continue medical coverage for “children” up to age 25 or 26. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the other day: "Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance." As Mary Katherine Ham writes in The Weekly Standard last week, “If [liberals] insist on creating a generation unable to care for itself up to and past the ripe old age of 26 by incentivizing ‘children’—and I use to term loosely— to stay on parent's health insurance policies until they're turning the corner from Clearasil to Botox, there will be fewer educated, able-bodied people who ever learn to take care of themselves.”

Two generations ago, far fewer Americans went to college and I’m not sure that was a bad thing. There was some crazy behavior on campus but nothing compared to what it’s like today. Even though wealthy parents bailed their “kids” out of various scrapes, there were behavioral standards at most colleges beyond which nobody was allowed to go regardless of how influential a family they came from. The late Senator Ted Kennedy was twice expelled from Harvard when he was caught cheating.

After World War II, thousands of veterans went to college on the GI Bill, but they tended to be focused and businesslike in their study habits - even compared to the more-diligent students common back then. A friend who was an undergraduate in the late ’40s described what it was like when returning GIs started attending his classes. They were impatient with small talk, he said, and they expected to be learning every minute. Professors stepped up their pace and everyone treated the new older students with great deference. Contrast that with today’s returning GIs who are flagged as possible domestic terrorists by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Colleges that won’t allow ROTC or military recruiters to set foot on campus aren’t prone to respect returning veterans either.

If parents choose to support their offspring beyond eighteen that’s their business, but government shouldn’t require everyone to contribute - especially those of us who know they’d grow up much faster if they had to take care of themselves.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The colleges have a government guarantee and therefore there is no limit to their growth and cost..My sons college cost $75,000 for an ASSOCIATE degree! Like healthcare there is no real transparent $$ amount. W/out that there is no accountability. The taxpayer is paying for not only their own children but for all. Great article but not sure of the understanding by the public of the great expansion in cost...I believe it's a 425% increase in 20 years...ps. my Dad went back to high school and received his H.S. diploma w/ the GI bill the same year I graduated from High School. Many nights we drove to the school together...he to attend class and I to attend student council meetings. Quite a memory!!! Laurie from Bartlett

3/17/10, 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Amen" to most of your blog...many of today's so-called young adults are no more than adolescents who still have a dependent attitude.

Others are learning the hard way that what one puts into life, one gets out. Oversimplification perhaps, but on the whole, true. There are many fine young people serving in the armed forces who are risking their lives daily so that their contemporaries can continue to "find themselves".

3/17/10, 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. McLaughlin, I have seen the "adolescents" of the past number of years - hanging onto the dependence of childhood while demanding freedom and recognition. I went to college when I got out of the US Navy back in the mid-60s (on the GI Bill). When I completed my degree, there were still students trying to finish their educations and "find themselves" who were there when I started! As long as someone, whether parents or the taxpayer, is footing the bill, this kind of behavior will continue. When no deadlines are given, there is no accountability.

3/17/10, 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are those who have criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for suggesting that some disgruntled veterans who return home might well fall prey to "right-wing extremists" and, in turn, become potential terrorists . It’s apparently beyond their comprehension that either a veteran or a gun owner could become a threat to the state. Thus, it will probably do little good to remind them that....


... a few days ago, Sgt. John Russell fired on his fellow troops at a counseling center in Iraq, killing five of them.


... in September 2008, in Tunnis, Iraq, a 39-year-old soldier was charged with killing Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson and Sgt. Wesley Durbin.


... in October 2007, in Bahrain, U.S. Seamen Anamarie Camacho and Genesia Gresham were shot and killed by a third sailor, who then shot himself.


... in June 2005, in Baghdad, Lt. Willie Brown fatally shot Sgt. Joseph Tackett and later pleaded guilty to a charge of negligent homicide. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.


... in 2003, at Camp Pennsylvania, Kuwait, Sgt. Hasan Akbar launched a grenade attack on his fellow soldiers, killing Capt. Christopher Seifert and Maj. Gregory Stone of the Army's 101st Airborne Division and wounding 14 other officers. Akbar was later court-martialed and sentenced to death.


Indeed, since these critics so greatly enjoy waving the flag, hugging the Constitution, and mouthing conservative platitudes like some mindless politically-programmed robot, it is perhaps far too much to ask that they please, please, please grow up.

3/17/10, 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Snopes Kennedy only had one cheating incident at Harvard. This ay seem minor to you but when you print things of this nature good journalism dictates that you check your facts a little better.

3/17/10, 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet another disturbing (or to Tom, I'm guessing it was stimulating) picture of a naked male.

Strange fascination you have, Tom.

3/17/10, 12:01 PM  
Anonymous DAWN said...

we need to stop enabling our kids and start ennobling them instead.

I have three sons, all in their twenties. All three were completely on their own by 22 with good paying jobs. Two were married at 22 (two weeks after college) the other at 26. Two have recently bought their first homes.

They all went to college (private colleges). They did not go to Ivy League colleges and all graduated owing only about $20-23K at the end of 4 years.

None of my kids got a government handout. It was all done by their hard work and their parents' encouragement. They worked all during school and vacations and the hard work ethic has brought them to where they are today.

Like I say to my sons, you always pick what you plant.

3/17/10, 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Hey, Tom, remember dodging this question?


Tom, in your little "about me" blurb you mention you are "thinking about slowing down so Obama won't spread my wealth around."

Are you claiming that your income taxes have gone up since Obama took office or is this just another example of your mindless and dishonest verbal diarhea?


When you get called out you just run and hide like a little schoolgirl, huh? You have a real habit of hiding your head in the sand and not answering these frequent uncoverings of your BS.

You remind me of Hannity, or Rush who when confronted with a caller who is not a brainless dittohead. I always laugh and say "time to hang-up in a huff", and it never fails! You people only know how to handle yourselves when amongst like-minded people. When threatened with an actual reasoned debate it's scurry back to your hole. Great comedy, but poor journalism.

3/17/10, 12:26 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Frank,

I'm not hiding, just choosing not to waste time arguing with idiots. Besides, I already answered that question when you asked it on a previous thread.

3/17/10, 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Tom, I originally asked that question on the last thread "Change is Coming". After my post you had two of your own posts, both having to do with the email from Josh. So you are either making a blatent lie when you say you answered, or you are a very confused man.

C'mon, Tom, you are trying to use the tired old predictible excuse that you don't wnat to "waste time arguing with idiots"?!? We all know that means "you got me, I have no other way to respond".

So be it, if you are not man enough to admit defeat then continue to run away and hide amidst your excuses. It is what I expected.

3/17/10, 1:32 PM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Oh good. Does this mean you're going to go somewhere else from now on?

3/17/10, 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of nonsense on both sides in this one and lots of truth. No one will win this one.

3/17/10, 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

The college situation right now is quite frightening, as you point out. Almost every student is being pressured into higher education, whether they have a clear goal for themselves or not. A lot of my friends, seniors, recently heard back from Northeastern University. There were a few acceptances, but several rejections and wait-listings. They later found out that there was a surge of applications this year, and the acceptance rate was below 8%. That's insane. For an idea of how incredibly low that is, Harvard's acceptance rate hovers around 10%.

It's true that more and more students are applying to college, and not necessarily for the right reasons. This drives the competition to insane levels. A ludicrous idea is that a good part of past classes (at many universities) applying today would not get in. I believe that if you work hard and set clear goals for yourself, it doesn't matter whether you go to Yale, a community college, or straight into a trade. One is not better than the other.

Now, the system could definitely be improved. As for financial aid, I believe that the system is incredibly biased. There are three levels of applicants, following the class system. If you are from an upper class family, you can more than likely pay for your education. Aid from colleges to lower-class applicants is rising. I am among these students, as I have received very generous financial aid packages from two different universities (MIT is the most recent one, in case you're wondering, Mr. McLaughlin!). I remind myself every day how incredibly fortunate I am for this.

Unfortunately, for most applicants (and most of my friends) the middle class is having a harder and harder time paying for its education. Schools are not giving as much money to them, and students are left with excessive loans. Dawn's children are exceptions, not the rule, to most graduates' financial situations. Whether government is the answer to this depends on your political ideas. I for one agree that if students had clearer ideas of what they were doing with their lives, they may not drive up the costs for everyone else. College is not necessarily the answer for all.

3/17/10, 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Frank said...

"Oh good. Does this mean you're going to go somewhere else from now on?"

Now that I have exposed you as a complete phoney who is scared to debate issues on truth, logic and reasoning, yes I probably will move on to more intellectual pastures. Why stick around and beat a dead horse?

And for your own good, Tom, you might want to go see a psychiatrist about your chronic, habitual lying. I mean making an outlandish lie about "already answering", something which can be so easily verified (just go back and look at the last thread) really highlights the extent of your disregard for Truth. You have fallen into political "crap-speak", where if something is repeatedly stated as fact, no matter how big or easily verified as a lie, it indeed becomes "fact" for the speaker and for other like-minded, lazy-brained people.

But just to keep you on your toes I will check back once in a while on your progress....there is still time for you to mature and except the truth for what it is.

Good luck & Cheers!

3/18/10, 8:39 AM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Bye-bye. Watch out for that doorknob!
Come back when you can't stay so long.

3/18/10, 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Tom just got totally DESTROYED by Frank and the best he can do is "watch the doorknob"?!?

Watching Tom try and defend his garbage is like watching a toddler trying to keep a steak from a pit-bull!

lol

3/18/10, 9:39 AM  
Blogger Tom McLaughlin said...

Congratulations Alex. You deserve it. You're lucky because you were born with a great brain, but that alone isn't sufficient. You needed discipline and a work ethic and, from what I hear, you've acquired those. That's your own doing and you may be justly proud. Mrs. McDermith told me you scored very high on your SATs.

The system is incredibly biased, but not just for socio-economic reasons. After 45 years of Affirmative Action, it's racially, sexually, and ethnicly biased as well.

A friend who went to a state college in Iowa just before WWII told me he could work two months in the summer and make enough to pay tuition for a year.

I was able to work and pay my way through a state university in the '70s with no help from my parents or from the government. I didn't borrow anything either and graduated with no debt. I finished graduate school the same way.

Hugely increased financial aid from government has driven up the cost of higher education to ridiculous levels since and it's accelerating. It's way past the point of being worth it and you're right - middle class kids suffer the most.

Keep me updated about what you decided to do, okay?

3/18/10, 10:15 AM  
Anonymous DAWN said...

"Congratulations Alex. You deserve it."

I second that. I've seen him on the x-country course and know what it takes to put out that kind of effort and how it also transcends to the academics as well. A hard work ethic and determination is needed to run for a long period of time without a break.

"middle class kids suffer the most."

"The system is incredibly biased.."

Yes I can vouch for this. Our kids were white middle class. It was disheartening to see students visiting (some stayed at our home) this country and getting completely free rides while my kids worked so hard. Our boys didn't get even as much as a free book from the government while I saw dorm students get everything paid BUT books.

"Dawn's children are exceptions, not the rule, to most graduates' financial situations."

It took work and a plan to get this done. We came up with a one third plan on a yearly basis. One third the boys paid as they went. One third we took care of and one third went into loans. Worked well.

Since then we've had other parents adopt this plan seeing how well it worked for us.

3/18/10, 12:41 PM  

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