Friday, November 21, 2008

Life in These United States.

I was wrong. When Graham started blogging at CHE I wryly quipped, "We'll have to see if there will be a second post or if he'll fold this show after one performance." Well, it turns out that he posts more often than I do. Of course, that's easy to do if you recycle your rejected Reader's Digest submissions and throw in a retreaded anecdote from a speech to create a post. From this CHE blog post, comes this amusing tale of a critic's misplaced expectations.
One mother wrote to me after a Thanksgiving break because her son hadn’t made his bed the entire weekend. Not once! She wondered what we were actually teaching students at college. Apparently it was NOT housekeeping.
This is one in a series of anecdotes which he strung together to paint a pointillist picture of the absurdity of the criticism that is heaped upon him, with the subtext of there is no point in listening to those critics. However, a few years ago he told a similar tale at the Annual Lycoming County Brotherhood Banquet.
I recently received an e-mail from a parent who wanted to know what we had been teaching her son at Penn State. She asked the question because her son was leaving his dirty laundry on the floor and refused to do the dishes or clean up after himself. In general, she told me, he had become what is commonly referred to as a slob.

Now, I don't recall this young man's major, but I'm sure that housekeeping is not on our list of offerings. I'm also sure this 20-year-old student would have been mortified if he knew his mother had written to the president about his untidiness. I don't really think this student's mother wanted us to offer a curriculum that covered bed-making 101....
Back then Graham didn't tell this tale to belittle his critics. Back then Graham used this tale to illustrate the expectation that parents might have that universities instill values.
[Continuing directly]...What this parent was trying to tell me was that she believed it was my institution's job to teach her child responsibility. And her expectations are not that unusual. Many of my communications with parents involve some talk about values and the importance of responsibility, honesty, integrity and ethical behavior. While intellectual development is the primary purpose of higher education, I believe that a university should also promote the development of character, conscience, citizenship and social responsibility.
...values like "integrity and ethical behavior."

Think about it Graham.

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