The Nation's Pulse

Back to School

Not what it used to be.

By 9.5.08

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The first week of school: Tears, anxiety, pants-wetting. And that's just the bus drivers. As I dropped my son off near the entrance to school he held onto me tightly and begged me not go. "You're a high school senior, for god's sake," I snapped. Actually the first day of school turned out to be a lovely summer day. From the playground shouts and screams wafted through the air -- until a security guard came out and warned me to keep it down.

It was an even stranger week for Texas students who returned to school to learn that some of their teachers might be carrying guns. The teachers were supposed to keep the handguns concealed, but you could easily tell which instructors were packing heat. They were the ones not cringing behind their desks.

Liberals and other Second Amendment haters, of course, hated the news, but I fail to see what the big deal is. Of course, at our Catholic grade school the School Sisters of Notre Dame didn't need firearms. The nuns kept us in line by threatening us with the flames of hell. Try threatening today's inner city kids with hellfire when they've lived their whole lives in west Baltimore.

Weirder yet was news that 100 college presidents want the states to rethink the drinking age. Many, like the president of Johns Hopkins University, called for a drinking age of 18, which seems an odd thing for a college president to do since most students are all ready too hung over to get to class. "Kids are going to drink whether it's legal or illegal," said Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody, who might actually have been his 18-year-old son posing as his father. Either way, it sure sounded like something an 18-year-old would say. "And they're going to hook up with hotties and smoke killer weed and drive drunk real fast whether it's legal or not," he continued, before dissolving into a fit of drug-induced snorts and giggles.

How is lowering the drinking age going to improve learning on college campuses? Well, once the age is lowered to 18 college students and administrators can begin a serious discussion about drinking. But that dialog cannot begin until all freshmen can get served, said the college presidents. That makes perfect sense. After all, 18-year-olds can vote, serve in the military, sustain themselves on cold pizza, sleep in their own filth, and spend all day surfing internet porn. Why can't they buy a beer? How about a trade? We'll let them drink if they give up the vote. Sounds like a win-win.

PROPONENTS OF A lower drinking age got a boost last month after a report was released stating that half of college students have contemplated suicide. Apparently a lot of them are depressed because while they can sleep in their own filth, and spend all day surfing Internet porn, they cannot buy a six-pack. Will Parte, a spokesman for the Association of American Fraternities and Sororities, said a lower drinking age will actually reduce depression on campus, "because, like, even though alcohol is a depressant and stuff, it's only losers who don't get invited to keg parties who are depressed, 'cause they're, like, losers...and stuff."

Suicide, of course, is no laughing matter. But it does seem odd that half of college students want to kill themselves, while in the real world the figure is only about 15 percent (except in my office where the feeling is pretty much total). This leads to the inescapable conclusion that there is something sinister going on in our nation's campuses causing students to want to kill themselves. One thing is for certain: whatever it is that's going on on campus is not education.

My own college days seem long ago, but I cannot remember ever thinking, "What have I got to live for?" I remember being broke and starving and going through the couch crevices looking for enough change for a six-pack of Schlitz that I would purchase at the local gas station with my fake ID. I even have vague memories of attending classes. But overall they were the six happiest years of my life (not a joke, I went to grad school). It wasn't until I graduated and took on family responsibilities and had to share a cubicle with a guy who clipped his toenails all day long that the ulcers and irritable bowel and suicidal thoughts began.

If college students are anxious and depressed now, wait until they get their first job in the real world. Ah, the real world, where every day is like the first day of school.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.