In a night reminiscent of the debate on whether a Georgetown degree is for your career or your life, the Society gathered once again to discuss Resolved: The Myth of the “College Experience” Ruins University Education. Mr. Alden Fletcher (SFS ’17) of Vermont affirmed with Mr. Andrew Shaughnessy (COL ’16) of Kansas negating and making his induction!
Mr. Fletcher welcomed us all to the debate with the motto from the Greek temple in Delphi, where the oracle lay: “nothing in excess.” Granted, the Greeks constantly disobeyed this motto, but it linked to our perception of the myth of the college experience—“the shared conception…of how to ‘do’ college.” The debate was not to evaluate the truth to the myth’s claim, but instead to discuss its repercussions. The most ubiquitous aspect of the myth is certainly that college is an alcohol-filled party scene (and most people wouldn’t debate that!). Mr. Fletcher informed us that about 80% of college students have partaken in underage drinking and that you are 40% more likely to drink if you go to college. The second part of the myth is the “cult of success” which we here at Georgetown are truly familiar with. This facet of the myth really anything indicating that class time is essentially a hindrance to college. A good marker for this is the proportion of time spent outside of the classroom versus inside. Yet what is a college education but the academic goods that you receive? It is in this sense that the affirmation claims that the myth “systematically undermines” educational potential—it makes it “weird” to go to college and not drink or participate in a ton of clubs. In fact, we see this everyday as we ignore readings and stop demanding every penny of our $60,000. A major, measurable result is grade inflation; there’s “no demand for a more accountable system” simply because it isn’t a priority for us. Finally, Mr. Fletcher reminded us that college is the last time in our lives where we will have the chance to just be students, no obligations, no worries, and no careers involved. Why aren’t we invested in that?
Mr. Shaughnessy then followed Mr. Fletcher by first thanking his mentor and the Philodemic! He then defined the college myth as “a series of boxes that we have to check”, and oftentimes anything that has “party” at the end of it. However, Mr. Shaughnessy firmly denied that there’s any proof of education slipping; in fact, 55% of students spend 15.3 hours per week studying and professors only expect 15.4—students are matching expectations. Moreover, although grade inflation is a problem, it stems from structural flaws in the system, not to mention that it’s also due in part to more qualified students coming from college prep backgrounds. It is grade inflation that permits students to drink, not drinking that makes professors inflate grades. Furthermore, it’s easy for liberal arts students to skip readings, but that doesn’t mean our entire university system is failing—you won’t hear of many STEM students that skip their problem sets. Instead, Mr. Shaughnessy argued that it is the very myth that is reinforcing education by giving us “mechanisms of socialization” that help us to mature to adulthood and keep us from burning out. Even with the myth, 61% of students discuss their readings outside of class and, while the myth would have us believe that the social butterflies of universities are doing poorly, fraternity and sorority members have higher GPAs and “deeper learning outcomes.” The myth certainly doesn’t harm education and even helps transfers and veterans readjust to a new collegiate setting. The real problems in our education system stem from debt and the increased focus on professor research.
Mr. Perez-Reyes declared with certainty that studying a lot doesn’t mean that our education isn’t being harmed and that “we hold the consulting life to be self-evident” instead of going to class just to learn from sheer curiosity and desire. On the other hand, Mr. Greco was quick to note that we should always want to do something well, and that the so called “cult of success” doesn’t negate those values. Yet, for fellow transfer Mr. Kleinman, although the Society is an extraordinary group that enhances education, not every club does that, and when more money is being spent on the myth, then less is being spent on our educations. Mr. Eisen rebutted him with a story about how his family told him that he was at college “to learn how to learn”, and that reducing education to learning how to succeed in classes and life is a university’s purpose. However, Mr. Whelan immediately corrected him saying that “we go to high school to learn how to learn, we go to college to learn about stuff”, and that we cannot fully engage in our education without doing all of the readings and the work.
Mr. Mellon shifted the focus of the floor to the goal of an education—to land a job after graduating—and suggested that doing college right is vital for future success. Everyone knows what the “college experience” is, and so it’s become an expectation in our society that you have done it well. But Vice President Wilson pointed out that if that’s the point of an education, than the myth is part of university education; instead we have to define education as readings, assignments, and class time. For Ms. Hernick, that definition meant that the myth enhances education because it involves cura personalis because, after all, what happens outside of the classroom is what truly defines you.
Ms. Coccia vehemently refuted the negation though, saying that you’re supposed to study for 45 hours per week and that it is incredibly frustrating to see people “wasting $65,000 per year”. She boldly asserted that if you don’t want to learn as an end in and of itself, then you shouldn’t be here. On the flip side, Mr. Willis posited that not everyone likes to learn as an end, and many people are just here because need a college degree to achieve anything—the myth carries those people through college. In fact, Sergeant Edgar proclaimed that the myth actually only perpetuates that problem, furthering the idea that you need to go to college to become an adult and therefore increasing the price of a college education for all other students who just want to learn.
Mr. Naft then emphasized that, to stand on the affirmation, you need to be convinced that the myth ruins education for 51% of all of universities and stressed that “you can’t have a worthwhile experience…studying 45 hours per week”. Instead, the college experience is hook-up culture, drinking, networking, and above all friendship—the important things come outside of the classroom. President DiMisa then passionately told the floor to ignore Mr. Naft because you make friends everywhere—it’s not unique to the myth—and because the university should be a place that sets the bar high, a place for the intellectually elite.
Then our non-member portion began with Mr. Adam Gonzalez (SFS ’18) who asserted that “ruin” is a very strong word when we are still being well-educated. Yet for Mr. Kyle C. Rinaudo (SFS ’18), “ruin” wasn’t strong enough because we take cura personalis to mean “YOLO” and end up wasting our time here by not focusing. Ms. Zoe Sun (SFS ’18) took a different route, comparing college to a foreign city where the myth is a helpful guidebook and set of reviews that make your experience easier and more familiar. Ms. Jayme Amann (COL ’15), took the conversation in a different direction by saying that the myth perpetuates classism because all of it is so expensive—it takes a lot of money to drink a lot, so the Greek life argument just backfires. Ms. Jessica Scoratow (SFS ’18) then hearkened back to Mr. Mellon’s speech, agreeing that college is about finding a job and that once you’re at Georgetown, you should use every resource possible to get one. Ms. Annie Ludtke (MSB ’18) confirmed that there’s extreme pressure to find a job, but contended that this pressure and competition hurts students (especially with that MSB curve…), preventing true learning. Mr. Garrett Hinck (SFS ’18), though, compared this scenario to the allegory of the cave, saying that college is the best time and place to learn about life and the myth—college is necessary to figure out what the myth is. But Ms. Janelle Spira (NHS ’18) claimed that the negation is in the cave—Plato was all for pure learning. Learning how to think is the crux of college, and that’s only in the classroom.
Then Ms. Christenson brought us back to the member speaking time, arguing that not everyone wants to advance on a tiny segment of knowledge and that everyone, regardless of what they want out of college, benefits from it. Despite this, Mr. Christopher Grocki (MSB ’17) insisted that the competition that is in the MSB is not academics; those that don’t want to specialize in a tiny segment of knowledge may be better served by a vocational school. Mr. Young finally defended the MSB and then went on to say that the myth brings people together, and that maybe it is better than people give it credit for. Mr. Wang brought it back to education though, asserting that the myth is different for everybody and that nobody would want future health care professionals partying it up all of the time.
And then Ms. Grace asked us some deep questions—why does education seem so good, and can it even be ruined? Mr. Mouch dismissed those questions and told the floor that it was missing the point—universities offer us a chance to connect on a different level, and though education has failed us, it’s probably good that the university has been ruined. Ms. Egan then discussed an often ignored group, the anxiety driven, and stated that these are the people who may not receive straight As, but they still love learning. Finally, Mr. Daniel Ernst (COL ’18) closed the floor by suggesting that the myth is most harmful because not everyone is able to overcome it and realize that they too can fit in—it becomes an obstruction in enjoying college.
Mr. Shaughnessy brought us down from the ivory tower though, declaring that not every college is like Georgetown. There are many students out there who only decide to go to college based on the myth—it’s an incentive. The myth structures their experience. Furthermore, Mr. Shaughnessy urged the floor to ignore the truth value of the myth and instead focus on the guidance that it gives to students. He also rebutted the idea that the myth causes classism, because instead debt does. On the issue of studying 45 hours per week, he called that standard outdated. We all need to relax sometimes, and the myth lets us blow off steam and relax.
Mr. Fletcher nobly defended the affirmation by saying that college is worthwhile primarily because of the fantastic professors and discussions that we are able to have. Education is indeed constricted by the classroom, and the negation doesn’t place enough value on it, deprioritizing it. Furthermore, Mr. Shaughnessy may deny the classism in the myth, but it does truly imply a huge financial burden, forcing students to choose between working to pay for their education or for their extracurriculars. The myth makes us forget that these four years are our chance to learn and that “we can ask for changes in the system.” Mr. Fletcher boldly posited that if you don’t believe in sheer education, then you should stop paying $200,000 and have fun elsewhere.
After a fantastic debate, the room split to negate the resolution with a vote of 35-3-22. And, we closed the night by inducting Mr. Shaughnessy—we are so happy to have him with us in the Society as a member. He’s going to be a phenomenal member.