Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The purpose of college

When I first began considering attending college, my main focus was not to be any kind of activist or rebel – save against postal authority – but to create opportunities for myself beyond what I realized I could reasonably achieve in my current situation.

To me, college was about change, self-improvement and enlightenment, plus a chance to expand my personal contacts.

I suppose because of my relatively advanced age – I was in my late 20s – and my experience – I had served in the military and worked full-time for several years – I was in a better position than an 18-year-old undergraduate, also known as the “traditional” student.

I had had my adjustment to being away from parental authority and had taken on a whole set of responsibilities – job, car payments, mortgage, utilities, etc., that were outside the experience of many of my peers in community college. Others in the college were my age or slightly younger or older, and were also there for the purpose of improving themselves and acquiring knowledge.

Maybe I’m out of step with the current generational thinking on college but something seems to have gone wrong.

Today’s undergraduate, regardless of age, seems to be more concerned with making sure that the college or university administration is aligned with their views rather than pursuing an education.

What I mean is that when I was in college, I knew I’d encounter people with views and opinions different from my own. I was eager to hear other views and was not going to college to shut other people up. In the free and open exchange of ideas comes enlightenment – if not agreement.

I remembered one woman at the post office who told me about her first day at college was her last day. She’d been young and naïve, and had started her first day of classes with great excitement and anticipation. But in a class, she said, the instructor had mentioned evolution. She said that since evolution was against her religion and her views, she had to quit college immediately.

It was sad. She never achieved anything personally or professionally because she quit college on the first day.

In my days at community college and university, I often encountered views opposed to mine. Sometimes people did not bow before my holy body because I was a veteran of the military. Others didn’t agree with me politically.

Instead of marching in protest and demanding that others conform to my views, I listened to them and defended their right to speak out and present their views.

Today in colleges, students want “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” to avoid opinions and news that might upset them. Well, going to college means going where you will become upset and even frustrated. In the real world, you can’t just declare “safe space” and remove those who disagree with you.

I actually found that I learned more from those with whom I disagreed than with those I agreed with.

College was a totally enlightening experience for me. Much of what I knew and believed was challenged or held up for close examination, and I loved it.

I feel sorry for the kids today who are so closed-minded to ideas and insights that are not their own. I might still disagree with some views but they all have to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

I know it’s just a few students who are making it bad for the rest. But the overall view of college is being sullied, and someone has to defend the academy.

College was a great experience for me, one that I will always cherish. I miss the academic atmosphere sometimes, and wish to someday return there.

But if it’s to protests because students don’t agree with a speaker’s or a professor’s views on an issue, then I’d rather avoid the whole place.

College is where you become open to knowledge and ideas, not closed to them.


November 14, 2015 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I’m young and in college, and this is something I really can’t understand either. I came from a religious background, but have never felt “insulted” when a instructor or even student made some comment about my own religion. I enjoy hearing their side if anything. It’s sad my generation has gotten so concerned with silly things like that. You have to get a thick skin..and suck some things up in life.

    Comment by xxtokyoxx | November 15, 2015 | Reply

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