Monday, March 31, 2008

Adjusting to College

Thanks to everyone who wrote last week to wish me and my family well. I appreciate the kind thoughts. As my husband and I have spent the week trying to advise our son who started college in January, I'm just grateful that I feel so well and can try and help him put things in perspective.

I written a number of posts about the mental health crisis on college campuses and I'm not surprised it's a problem. As I've been talking with my son on the telephone these past few months, I have been wondering how I can help him identify the people at his university who care about "human feelings." Perhaps John Ciardi, the famous American poet, was right when he wrote, "A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in its students."

In the 40 years since I attended the University of California at Berkeley, nothing has changed. They do as lousy a job integrating spring-admit students now--as they did then. Everybody knows that starting college is a big adjustment and one that easily could be institutionally addressed, but it isn't at Cal despite promises at orientation and emails from administrators that suggested otherwise.

As I reflect on my experience at Cal and my son's, I wonder if people in student affairs ever think about what education is all about. My own view is similar to Grayson Kirk's, the former president of Columbia University, who wrote, "The most important function of education at any level is to develop the personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to others. This is the basic architecture of a life; the rest is ornamentation and decoration of the structure."

And certainly Carl Jung was right as well, when he wrote, "One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary new material, but the warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."

8 comments:

JayPeeFreely said...

Hey Susan! You have so much to say right on these subjects, have you considered a book on college education? (Just asking...)

I did get started on my job. Will see how it goes.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear JayPeeFreely,
Thanks for the compliment! I appreciate it. Certainly, something to consider.

Susan

Mariposa said...

Love the closing line you quoted! So true! Nice to hear from you again!

automaticdoor said...

I feel so lucky that I have the luxury of going to a small(ish, less than 7000 undergrads) private university that doesn't allow spring entry (so that everyone gets to go through orientation) and that actually has caring deans and caring staff. Our counseling services are not the best, but our deans and professors more than make up for it. I wish that everyone could have such a great experience.

Of course, in spite of all of that, because of the pressure-cooker nature of my university, stress, depression and anxiety are HUGE here. Almost everyone I'm friends with has "something," and I know four other people with BD. Even that's okay, though, because people are sympathetic. There's still a stigma, but pretty much everyone understands. We just don't talk about it much.

PS--This is Meredith (The Mental Feminist)! I'm just trying out OpenID from my personal blog.

Danielle Says Hello said...

And as I head out to our local college to teach my class....I always pray that I will teach with my heart...it is what touches our students the most.

Gianna said...

Hey Susan!
I'm a CAL alumnus too! It was a chaotic place, but god I loved it too...

I hope the good stuff about it is still there.

I'm feeling very nostalgic at the moment thinking about Berkeley...

my life with bipolar disorder said...

Susan, I like the part on "The most important function of education at any level is to develop the personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to others. This is the basic architecture of a life; the rest is ornamentation and decoration of the structure." How true! Thanks for sharing :)

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks for all your comments. I really appreciate them. It's 11:15 p.m. and I'm just getting around to responding. Sorry for the delay. I hope to be reading everyone's blogs later in the week, but I've got a lot on my plate this week, and am barely online.

Thanks Mariposa. I appreciate it.

Meredith--so glad to hear from you. It's always a pleasure. While I think the size of your campus sounds perfect, and it's great you feel that way about your professors and deans, the stress sounds overwhelming. I'm glad you're coping so well, but I would feel terribly concerned about my son in that kind of a pressure-cooker.

Danielle,
I would imagine that you do teach with your heart! My son started attending community college at the age of 16 and so many of his professors were terrific. For nine years, I was an administrator at a small highly selective liberal arts college, and the professors were also known for their teaching!

Gianna,
I started off at Cal in spring of 1968 and hated it, transfered a year later to UCLA, and loved it. But I'm glad you have fond memories!

Nanci,
I'm pleased you like the quote!

Thanks one and all!

Susan