Friday, October 24, 2014

Nudging Toward Chaos

Increasingly, the elite Universities in America are becoming known for drunken and loutish behavior, that is not necessarily confined to any one demographic.  Both female and male students, in growing numbers, devote more hours to sex, drugs and alcohol than to more traditional academic pursuits.  The results of this type of behavior are making the headlines across the country in a manner that is becoming commonplace, if not shocking.

Why?

One culprit is the imposition of laws forbidding "minors'" access to alcohol.  These laws are no more effective than laws banning drug use.  They simply make alcohol more attractive to young folks, determined to show their elders that they are free and independent.  Abolishing alcohol and drug prohibitions would be a good first step toward removing the "rebellion" motive from the equation.  But, these laws have been in place for a long time and surely cannot account for the dramatic trends that we see today on most college campuses.

More important are changes at "academic" institutions that almost guarantee the pursuit of bad behavior.  High on the list would be the modern academic calendar, which no longer lists any courses that meet on Saturdays and, increasingly, finds few, if any, courses that meet on Fridays as well.

This means that most college students, looking around at 4 PM on a Thursday afternoon, realize that they are not required to be in a classroom at any time over the next three days.  So, what to do, with three available days off every single week?  Well, guess what.  They are finding things to do and it is no surprise that sex, alcohol, and drugs are rapidly becoming the main attractions.

Merely shifting the calendar back to require classes on Fridays would eliminate the automatic three day weekend, that for most students at elite schools, now begins on Thursday afternoon.  It is not clear why Saturdays should not be used as well.  Empty classrooms can be found at every elite school in the country for the vast majority of time that most folks would normally count as the "workday," a word that increasingly is losing any meaning in the academic world.

Both faculty and students have a vested personal interest in reducing the hours and the days which they must set aside for classroom activity.  But, this means that these hours can and will be filled by other pursuits, not all of which serve to advance the educational goals of these institutions.

Simply changing the academic calendar to once more include Friday classes could promote more responsible behavior on today's campuses.

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