14.6.05

SLOVENLY HABITS, SLOPPY THINKING? Illini or Huskie? offers a differing point of view on cultural competence.

Suppose it's Saturday night, and you take a stroll down Annie Glidden to Starbusters ... a local college bar. After 5 minutes of casing the joint ... could you really assert that college students DON'T dress for success?

Okay okay okay...so maybe we're not talking about academic success. This is more the type of success that results in a notch in your belt, or a new number in the cell, or a couple free drinks (for some students, the definition of 'success' at a bar is slightly more lurid than I'd like to get into right now...so we'll just leave it riiiiiiight there).

Hint: it can come bundled with a case of chlamydia. And it's not as if I haven't heard this rationalization before, from weak students. Joanne Jacobs links to the kind of "success" these rationalizers enjoy.

For many, any interest in college and pursuing a career beyond retail or service industry is deferred, even abandoned, in order to maintain champagne tastes on a beer budget. Lacking an identity, they attempt to create their own through expensive clothing and accessories, said Ian Pierpoint, a senior vice president at the Chicago research firm Synovate."

This is the best-dressed, least-able, least-equipped generation ever,'' Pierpoint said. "If you're 24 or 25 and you're still at home, you're not doing a lot of things, like paying your own utilities. They are in some ways very experienced, but they are more coddled than other generations.''

But what is really sad is the rationalizing of the rationalizers coming from the academy.

Jason Leong's [one anecdote in the article] love of everything lavish is emblematic of the country's snowballing obsession with celebrity culture, said Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, author of the upcoming book "Class-Passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular Culture.'' Many young people, she said, are inspired to live like stars even as the economy becomes more uncertain.

"I don't know if these kids are responding to seeing their parents not getting the pay-offs to the American dream,'' said Foster, a professor of English and film studies at the University of Nebraska. "But if they see that what their parents did is not working, or if they see someone who has worked for 30 years at United Airlines lose their pension, can you blame them?''

Let's distinguish that hypothesis from a competing hypothesis. Will United Airlines' pensioners really lose their pensions, or will the Pension Benefits Guarantee Trust (managed by the same folks who brought you the Social Security Trust Fund) kick that can down the road so these kids can pay for it later?

A San Jose social worker offers yet another hypothesis.
"It's not that going to school is too hard,'' he said, "it's that it's not easy enough.''
Lovely. Yet another call for easing demands and calling it access?

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