Dumbing Down Princeton: Standards Are Too Stressful, Whines Student

Time to check in on the ultra-privileged world of the coddled Ivy League college student of today.

As we continue our tour through student journalism at blue ribbon schools, what do we commonly find? Answer: a leftism-tinged end of the worldism and valorization of mental fragility that are used to justify sloth on the part of students at these prestigious institutions.

The thrust of this genre in the online version of campus newspapers is that the world is so riddled with racism, environmental destruction, pandemic-related hardship and so forth that students at elite institutions should simply be handed their diplomas without having to put forth any effort to earn them. Striving for excellence, you see, is too stressful for these students in these troubled times. Effort makes them anxious and depressed.

Take this December 9, 2021 opinion piece in The Daily Princetonian. The argument that the maintenance of standards at one of the finest institutions in the world is bad for the mental health of those who fancy themselves to be the generation that will end racism, save the planet etc. etc. is clear from the title, Let’s stop giving grades.

The writer, a senior in the Department of African American Studies, starts off with the usual litany of despair that runs rampant through the ranks of those who took places at universities known for, well, being demanding places at which to study. He begins:

All around us, there is catastrophe: We are living in the second, almost third year of a global pandemic, and the death count continues to tick up every day. We see the consequences of the continued climate disaster: Fires engulf more land than we can remember, while natural disasters lead to death and panic even here in Princeton. Racism continues to claim the lives of countless people of color across the country. Every day seems to bring more bad news; every day feels one step closer to the apocalypse.

You get the idea. The world is falling apart—and you expect me to have to study to get a Princeton diploma? You monster!

This demanding doomster goes on to say:

It already proves difficult to establish genuine connections with other people because of the pressures of extracurriculars and academics

It does not occur to the writer that he may find it difficult to establish connections with other people because other people tend to avoid those who are gloomy and lazy.

The writer went to, one presumes, a good deal of trouble to get into Princeton and he must have known that attending it and doing well in classes there would require effort and application. Still, once ensconced and having deprived someone else of a place there he finds it onerous to work hard. He says:

We stay up late in fear of a bad exam grade, sacrificing precious sleep that our body needs to try and eke out a few more points.

A college expects its students to do well on exams and to suffer some consequence if they do not? Shocking!!

The whining proceeds:

our leisure time is constrained only to whenever we feel we can sacrifice minutes that we could be spending doing work to instead do something that makes us happy or, better, healthy

And remember, this is the sort of student who will head off into a world welcoming of graduates of Ivy League schools and who may end up leading foundations, banks, law firms, tech companies, government agencies, etc. The ramifications for American competitiveness and work ethic are dismaying.

The writer clearly feels comfortable swaddled in the loving arms of the nanny state and seems to want to keep his Princeton peers in a perpetual state of infantile dependency rather than becoming self-reliant, confident adults:

the solution is not to make Princeton even more competitive. Princeton is plenty competitive, with students often shouldering the responsibility for their own self-care and rest, ignoring the institutional pressures that make this care necessary in the first place. An alternative, then, might be to simply eliminate grades.

The gargantuan sense of entitlement screams off the page here:

As one of the most prestigious universities in the country, we have an opportunity to revolutionize the way we assess learning, and demonstrate that Princeton students are highly capable simply by virtue of attending this school because they are, regardless of anything that grades could say about them.

I see. All you have to do to gain the bankable cachet of a Princeton degree is to get into Princeton and squat there for several years and engage in extracurricular activities and socializing. And this is supposed to be a model for other universities? To wit, once in, one stays there no matter what. What a cool deal for layabouts!

The writer concludes cheerily (setting aside for the moment his fears for the planet and worries about racism):

This remedy might even prove to be a cure-all: professors will have more latitude in ensuring students are truly learning — not destroying themselves over a grade — and, students will have more opportunity to structure their lives at Princeton around the things they value, prioritizing connecting with people and taking care of their bodies, rather than shunting away friendships, relationships, and self-care

We are just to assume that learning is taking place because neither the student nor future employers nor society at large will have any indication of what the student has learned while at Princeton—save “self-care” which seems to mean being served up large amounts of privilege simply because one is a Princeton student.

This isn’t even a meritocracy. It is rule by those who were granted a privilege at 18 or so that will endow them with prestige forever in return for no academic achievement, or any indeed any effort, after that point. Students now clamoring against legacy admissions appear now to want to make every man a king and every woman a queen—provided they graduate from Princeton and schools that take up the “End grades now!” cry. And we thought America was free of an aristocracy.

Should you care what a Princeton student says about how he sees his rightful place in society? Yes--because what happens at Princeton oozes into positions of power down the road. This kid will be appearing in your workplace soon.

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