September 15, 2007



College students - and the rest of us - need to pay more attention

By Alan Lupo

The shopping cart was sitting in a space reserved for a car. If whoever left it there was somewhat disabled, pregnant or carrying a kid, I could understand why he or she didn't take a few seconds to wheel it five spaces over and into the place reserved for empty carts.

Otherwise, just what is it with the laziness, the indifference, the thoughtlessness, the ignorance and the apathy so increasingly noticeable among us these days?

It reminded me of two stories I had just read, one in The Eagle-Tribune and one in the Boston Globe. Neither one involved shopping carts, but for me, those little wheeled vehicles suddenly became a symbol for both those stories and what I fear they represent.

The Eagle-Tribune polled 50 people to see if they knew who was running in the party primaries for the 5th Congressional District seat in the Merrimack Valley.

Forty-four percent of the folks couldn't name any of the five Demmies or two Republicans who were on the ballot for the Sept. 4 primary.

OK, it's summer and we all know how many citizens do not like to think about politics in the summer. Trouble is, too many don't like to think about politics in any of the four seasons.

Now, people died creating, defending and preserving this republic, but too many of the rest of us can't be bothered to know the name of even one individual who wishes to serve us by participating in the governing of that very republic.

Laziness? Indifference? Thoughtlessness? Ignorance? Apathy? Take your pick from the shopping carts strewn about on the political landscape.

The Globe story dealt with how some colleges are trying to curb Thursday night student binge drinking by reviving Friday morning classes.

For years now, increasing numbers of students have begun their weekends on late Thursday afternoon. As someone who pledged a fraternity as a freshman and lived in the fraternity house for the next three years and who, as a college student and later, a newspaperman, was not unfamiliar with liquid libations and parties, I do not see myself as a prude.

Binge drinking is a danger, however. Beyond that, I am more concerned about what ought to be another important reason for Friday classes. It's called education.

Now, I do not wish to do one of those "in-my-day" routines, but in my day - whoops - we even had Saturday morning classes. That was a bit much, but to have decreased the number of Friday classes or have abolished them altogether so both kids and faculty could have another day off?

Some faculty defend the lack of Friday classes as enabling them to do more research or engage in meetings. This is weak gruel indeed.

One can engage in research during all the free time that seems to accompany teaching at a college. One could even do it during office hours, inasmuch as many professors could die of loneliness at those times, given how few students ever take advantage of the touted one-on-one meetings with the prof.

As for meetings, well, university folks love to meet and indeed love to talk, which makes the meetings last longer than they should. So meet early in the morning or late in the afternoon or, heaven forbid, for a couple of weekend hours.

In the Globe story, the most aggrieved, the most put-upon, were the students. What? Friday classes? Especially in the morning? Why, that would mean cutting back on one's Thursday night social life! What's college for, anyway?

Well, some of it is for social life. The rest of it is for education, which supposedly serves at least three functions.

One is to educate for the sake of educating - to inform and broaden one's mind.

Another is to teach some semblance of a citizen's responsibility to that republic other folks died preserving, such as by maybe learning the names of those running for Congress.

The third is to prepare young people to make a living.

If that takes an extra day of classes, then so be it. The potential alternative is minds strewn hither and yon like abandoned shopping carts on a parking lot of a store owned by the graduates of Indian and Chinese universities, where they take classes seriously.


Alan Lupo, a veteran Boston columnist, can be reached at


(This article replicated online with permission of the Newburyport Daily News, an Eagle Tribune Newspaper.)

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