Fraternities of brothers and sororities of sisters no longer champion the spirit of leadership and dedication. Establishing traditions of balance, sophistication and pride in maturation are paramount in the purpose of the collegiate experience. Not long ago, leaders were hand-picked because of their known associates. Honor was determined not by deeds accomplished but by secrets kept. Women obtained virtuous qualities while contributing to efforts to build a stronger community, feed and comfort the infirm and unite the young and old in causes that were fundamentally American. Men could rely on educated women not only to provide a well-balanced home life, but could step in and fulfill a husband’s duties if he were called to war or serve abroad for business or government.
The university campus was hallowed ground not long ago. Grounds were dedicated and paths planned with purpose and dedication. Fundraisers and scrap drives paid for the brick and mortar. The quad or field house was used for military drills. Professors were leaders in their fields of instruction and often spoke to international crowds in massive halls. Deans and class presidents knew the freshman on campus and took an interest in them. Things were quite different not that long ago.
Higher learning institutions gave back to the community in more ways than just knowledge. In a way that may be viewed as discrimination today, people knew the difference just a couple decades ago. The handicapped were employable, able and sought out by schools. They worked as groundskeepers, janitors, were trained as plumbers, electricians and carpenters. They provided a valuable service, gained an appreciation for hard work, took pride in the sacredness in hallowed halls of learning, and bonded with faculty and students, forming friendships that many long for.
Long before SAT’s and ACT’s and whatever other test you take before you pick a university, higher education may not have even been an option depending on your birth order. The firstborn in your generation knows little of the struggle your forefathers had. Your ancestors were most likely from a long line of firstborns in their families. All the gifts and talents were saved and spent on the firstborn male. He would be the one to attend school, those children born later would join the clergy, sign up for service in the military or travel the seas. Health and wealth often went hand in hand. Now, anyone who can fill out a FAFSA can get a loan, scholarship or grant and within a couple weeks an acceptance letter and class schedule in the mail, or rather email inbox.
We all have expectations for ourselves. Few of us share those with each other or even our families, but a minute portion of society puts any expectations on their peers. Lab partners were not set up and arranged and study groups were of no importance to the professor. Lecture halls were gatherings of the prepared and interested. There was a connection between learning and development. Instruction and passing a course of study required depth and ingenuity. Nobody held hands and walked you along. College was seen as a place to test theory and develop technology. Nowhere else in the world was there as much access to potential and possibility as on the college campus. Nobody had an undecided major.
Chalk, not computers. Books, not iPads. Letters, not cell phones. Dorms, not apartments. Groceries, not fast food. Libraries, not coffee shops. Beer, not weed.
Colors and flags and songs. There is no greater uniter than passion for purpose. Knowing where you came from and where you’re going may have no greater foundation than the scholarly achievements you and your peers contribute to our generation. We are going in the direction we lead ourselves. Paths are laid before us, but blazing a new one will always be more rewarding. The way is before us and the way is behind us. What way are you going? What way are we going?
I’m going my way.