COLLEGE: Moral Amnesia

COLLEGE: Moral Amnesia December 31, 2004

Per Huw Raphael’s mention of the article entitled “EDUCATION: The End of Faith,” in the January issue of The WORD, here follows an excerpt from Tom Wolf’s latest novel, “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” which speaks to the moral/ethical struggle of college life.

[Charlotte’s friend, Laurie, is attending NC State; Charlotte, Dupont. They both hail from a small town in the mountains of Western North Carolina. By phone, Laurie is making an apology for cutting loose.]

“I guess what I really mean is college is like this four-year period you have when you can try anything — and everything — and if it goes wrong, there’s no consequences? You know what I mean? Nobody’s keeping score? You can do things that if you tried them before you got to college, your family would be crying and pulling thier hair out and giving you these now-see-what-you’ve-gone-and-done looks? — and everybody in Sparta would be clucking and fuming and having a ball talking behind your back about it? — and if you tried these things after you left college and you’re working, everybody’s gonna … blow a fuse, and your boss or whoever will call you in for a …”

“… little talk, he’ll call it, or if you have a boyfriend or a husband, he’s gonna totally freak out or crawl off like a dog, which would be just as bad, because it’d make you feel guilty? I mean look at it this way, Charlotte. College is the only time in your life, or your adult life anyway, when you can really experiment, and at a certain point, when you leave, when you graduate or whatever, everybody’s memory like evaporates. You tried this and this and this and this, and you learned a lot about how things are, but nobody’s gonna remember it? It’s like amnesia, totally, and there’s no record, and you leave exactly the way you came in, pure as rainwater.” [p.157]

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