I went on a mini rant yesterday on Twitter. Which is not usual for me. Every so often I will have something creep up to the surface of my consciousness that will have me unnerved. This was sparked by the fact that one of my former students is in trouble. As upset as I was about that, it became compounded with previous thoughts coming from a conversation I had with family.
One has to understand that the older members of my family come from a generation of protest. The things that most of us take advantage of in colleges is because they protested to get it when they were in college. I’m not just simply talking about the Civil Rights Movement. There were numerous protests about the war in Vietnam and subsequently protests about college curriculum as it pertained to Black and Latino Studies. Most of my family grew up during the time of The Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.
So the question they proposed to me is, “Why don’t college kids care anymore?” I’m not even sure I have an answer for that. What I do know is that the perception of struggle is different and internalized in a different way. Many of these kids lack the ability to see their own privilege. There is also a distinct disconnect to history and community.
Taking a few steps further, one would have to be more than blind to see the shortcomings of this economy and the short falls of government. The price of education rises steadily every year at a rate higher than inflation. There will a point in time when education is just too expensive. What will happen then? When will the youth fight for their right to be educated on their terms? The availability to education will no longer be a race issue, it will be a class issue — an issue of the haves and the have nots.
Gone are the days of sit ins. I can actually say that I was involved in a sit in during my college days. I believe it was freshman or sophomore year, when there was a group of individuals who lead us to sit in (and thus shutting down) the Tolley Administration Building at Syracuse. During that time, it was the office of Chancellor Shaw and we was not happy to see nothing but students of color sitting right out side his door. What were protesting? The rise of tuition, which at that time was almost 20k.
We saw the writing on the wall then. We knew friends that were not coming back the following semester or year because it was just too expensive. Look at things now. I am still paying off my loans and I don’t owe a fraction of what these kids who graduate now will owe. Yet, what is the outcome of apathy? Debt? When does the amount of a student loan outweigh someone’s life time salary? And yet, some of my students (the males, in particular,) get upset with me because I care too much about their grades. Because (according to them) I do not understand the fraternity life they are living. There is nothing to understand. Graduation is the only outcome especially if you are going to owe that much money.