College Activism – Another Part Of The “Scam?”

I’m starting to wonder now if my inability to get away from the “college scam” debate might have something to do with being subscribed to The Young Turks’ College channel.  Hmmm……  🙂

This is an interesting story, for the most part because it raises several issues that the commentators do not go into detail with.  Let’s begin with something they somewhat mention though.  They did have a point about something being wrong with the survey of whether college kids were political or not because the survey went specifically after freshmen.

Indeed, if they had focused on sophomores and juniors I’ll bet the results would’ve been much different, because college politics is really not a freshman thing.  Freshman year in college is more about just getting used to college in the first place, such as getting used to the workload, living in a dorm, living with a roommate, time management, introductory courses, etc.  Once everyone is settled in though, sophomore year is where it all begins.

Another Trip Down Memory Lane

This was accented all the more for me because right at the beginning of my sophomore year in college we had the September 11th attacks, so as you can imagine on-campus politics shot through the roof, but even if 9-11 hadn’t happened there’s certainly enough politics on college campuses that I would’ve run into plenty of it.  Halfway through Sophomore Year I changed my minor from Economics to Political Science as a revolt against the politically-charged students and professors who were trying to mess with my head and went hard-core Conservative in response to the blatantly Liberal bias that was all over the Liberal Arts (hmmmm…..  that name has more than one meaning these days…  😉 ).  Nowadays, besides being a much more mellow Independent in terms of the issues, I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in that stuff, not because of any Left Vs. Right stuff, but because the academic liberalism I ran into ironically was the weakest intellectually and in terms of Progressive thought there are various stripes of Progressivism that would hold their own far better in a debate than what was showboated in front of me in college.

Interestingly enough though, it was a more Libertarian-leaning book that turned out to be the biggest influence on how I weathered the barrage of folks wanting to recruit me to their causes.  The Shadow University – The Betrayal Of Liberty On America’s Campuses by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate really was an eye-opener, and some of the stuff I saw on campus that I knew I wouldn’t see elsewhere inspired me to adopt a line from the book from time to time, “I need to get off of this campus and go back to the United States Of America for awhile.”  I’d say for any collegebound senior going to a traditional residential college, this book should be required reading, preferably the summer before starting the whole mess.

This wasn’t to say all of college was a drudgery once I was aware of this sort of stuff going on.  As a matter of fact, one time I had a little fun with it.  One of the liberal arts electives I wound up having to take was an International Studies class called “Cultural Diversity In The Modern World.”  I suspected the usual talking points were in play here so when we had to do our essays and “critical thinking and response” type assignments I bet that the assignments weren’t so much about thinking on your own as how much you knew and could articulate the talking points of the academic Left, so I articulated as much of it as I could every single time.  Easiest A I ever earned in that school.  😛

There’s more to the story than classes though.  Today, college activism has further reaching consequences than before with the rise of social media and the Occupy movements, so let’s talk about that too in case anyone has any use for this information.

College Activism Vs. Career Reality

One of the biggest non-political deterrents to me getting caught up in the college activism and demonstrations was the blunt warning about becoming a loose cannon on things.  The biggest irony with campus activism at my college was that it was a business school which theoretically should have been preparing us to become various types of managers, exactly the polar opposite of a loud-mouthed hot-headed political activist.

I was tipped off about this when I read an article about Darla Moore, who in 1997 became the first woman ever profiled on the cover of Fortune magazine.  Fortune titled it “The Toughest Babe In Business” and immediately people flipped out because they thought “babe” was inappropriate or sexist.  Her response really caught my eye and has influenced my approach to things ever since:

“I have this to say to the women who find the use of the word ‘babe’ inappropriate or even horrifying: I seriously doubt, as long as you retain this attitude, that you will ever appear on the cover of Fortune – or that you will ever accomplish enough in business to merit this distinction. True sensitivity means not getting all wound up in a bundle every time you think you hear an insult. Anyone who wants to play in the big leagues of business has to learn to focus on what’s important – and not be thrown off by smaller things.”

I’ll bet I wouldn’t have heard anything like that from my professors in a million years.  😛  She was right though.  Once I got away from all the hotheaded activism my first job after college involved working for a bunch of experienced operations managers who were very good at what they did.  They were easily the most calm, collected, level-headed people I’ve ever worked for and nothing got to them.  When everything went wrong and everybody else was flipping their lid and going nuts, they were still focused on what mattered and getting through the challenges instead of making a Broadway drama out of them.  Talk about a great eye-opening influence.  Plus it’s good to know that I was right.  Sadly though, a college activist living in an academic fishbowl might not until it’s too late.  :-\

“Loose Lips Sink Ships”

Loose Lips Sink Ships was a slogan on posters during World War 2 warning people not to casually talk about sensitive military information that they heard from spouses, etc., fighting in the war in case there were enemy spies listening in.  World War 2 is long over, but the relevance of this warning still has numerous applications today.

Moore’s quote on sensitivity wasn’t the only thing that convinced me to stay away from the people grandstanding for various causes on campus.  I was also reading articles about liberal arts loose cannons and the kinds of jobs they landed after college if they could land one at all.  Even years before our current economic mess I was already reading about college grads with BAs who’d gotten involved in lots of activism graduating and not being able to find suitable jobs except MAYBE in a nonprofit organization making not much more than they would’ve straight out of high school.  Why?  Reputation reputation reputation.  No large business would want to take a chance on someone who will flip out about itty-bitty things that they don’t agree with and cause all kinds of drama in the office when everyone’s trying to work.  Don’t forget, folks.  This was YEARS before YouTube, Facebook, even MySpace and the explosion of social media sites that we see today.

Today, companies running background checks or searches on people have a lot more options to see what they’re really like aside from any glitz and glimmer they may bring to the interview.  There’s social media postings, YouTube videos, other video site videos, pictures, etc.  The Internet is far more multimedia these days as broadband has become more mainstream than when I was in college.  If companies want dirt on job candidates, it could be a very deep dig down to the bedrock depending on what kind of life you’ve been living.

My personal favorite is all the “Sign In With Facebook” features for commenting on news stories that attach a full name, current Facebook picture, and link to their profile to everything someone chimes in on.  It’ll be interesting if one day we read about someone who can’t get a job because background check services listed every single comment they posted on news stories and all the Internet fights they got into because they HAD to sound off about absolutely everything.

Let’s face it, with how wired everything is and how folks can snap video of someone on a smartphone cam and send it online on the spot the Information Age advice to “act like you’re on TV everywhere that you go” hasn’t been any more true, and isn’t going in the other direction anytime soon.  For many people who don’t follow this sort of stuff though, they may not learn about this until it’s too late.

I apologize for the magazine-article-length entry.  There’s much I can say on this topic and I didn’t want to cheeseball it by writing three separate entries, but at the end of the day, one has to wonder: is college activism any more worth it these days when recruiters can easily get someone’s mug shot off of Google search results of Occupy Wall Street and see that the person spewing venom about corporations is the same person that applied to be a bank teller for said-corporation or something?  How much of today’s issues with college grads not being able to find decent jobs has anything to do with this sort of stuff that’s popped up in the last few years alongside the economic downturn.  Hmmmm….  :-\


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