Joseph Bottum tells a too true story:
There are some real championship athletes on the rodeo circuit, and she wasn’t that. But she was good enough to get a minor riding scholarship to a school off on the other side of the state, joining the rodeo team of one of those big land-grant state universities that engulf midwestern and western towns. And she lasted less than a year. Three, four, maybe five months before she dropped out and turned up at home again, pregnant.
Not pretty enough to be a real target, her youth and her innocence were attractive enough to get her seduced and abandoned. She knew enough not to have an abortion—the pro-life creed is almost the only one that kids get, anymore, even out in the rural areas—but she didn’t have the sense or the character to keep it from happening in the first place, and nobody else was looking after her. She had a single talent: She sat a horse like a dream, and she thought that the school that had recruited her because of that talent would be her ticket to education and sophistication.
College let her down.
College is letting a lot of kids down, for a lot of reasons. I know a bunch of kids in college, right now, some at “very good” schools, some at smaller, meaner ones. None of them are particularly happy; all of them feel like they’ve been sold a false ideal. Some of them feel stranded–they’d like to quit, but if you’re going to pay the loan, you may as well have the degree, and besides, it’s not like there are any jobs, outside in “the world.”But it’s not just the colleges that have let them down. If they are so susceptible what Bottum calls “bacchanalia of the contemporary American college experience,” then perhaps their weaknesses were reinforced by a media-and-trend embracing society that rushes to discover the lowest common denominator of human behavior, and by parents who have thought too much of their own desires; perhaps the kids have been finding the mud to be sticky and immobilizing because the churches have chosen to teach warm-puddle “specialness” over the whys and wherefores of faith, and thus foundational building blocks are being left unused.
Read the whole thing, though. It will make you sad, because it is true, and it is regretful.
But it is, at least, beautifully written.