Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Family Issues That Affect College Students

We finished the term last week, and I just got the evaluations of the family life course. Most of the comments suggest that students liked the course, loved the subject, and learned a great deal. The first part of the course, the "all about me" section, covered sex differences in mate selection, gender differences in communication, and the advantages of marriage. In the second part we explored some of the main sources of variation in families, especially divorce and unwed motherhood. Only one comment bothered me:

I thought the first part was more interesting than the second part. I feel like more time could have been spent on things directly affecting us as college students rather than divorce and single parents.

I have been trying to put my finger on what bothers me about this view. Part of the problem is the sheer obliviousness that the comment betrays, since about a quarter of the students in the class were children of divorce, and one was about to become an unwed mother (though I believe the course convinced her to marry, after all). More trying, though, is the unconcern it suggests about the rest of the world beyond the great privilege of being a healthy young college student with no responsibilities and no disasters. The last third of the course is devoted to moving from the micro picture of my family to the macro picture of how the whole array of families shapes this country. Our last book, James Q. Wilson's The Marriage Problem, is devoted to this subject. Wilson's argument is that the decline of marriage in some sectors undermines everyone's marriages, and creates the seedbeds of all social problems.

So which family issues affect college students? Ultimately, all of them.


Anonymous said...

Interesting comment, and to hear that students at a more elite school also have that attitude.

Perhaps the hidden blessings in teaching students who are all majoring in a profession (mostly nursing) come from asking them to consider how people from different types of families might present them with different situations as patients or clients or students (for teh social work & education majors).

It is, though, just another version of thinking, "how does this affect me?"

Gruntled said...

The ones who do really get it in the class come to see how society really is a system.

Anonymous said...

Yes, eventually all family issues affect college students. When I graduated from college, I felt prepared to go to graduate school and on to a successful career. What I wasn't prepared for was difficult choices like the one I made yesterday - deciding to turn down a job that was better for my career to stick with one that was better for my kids. And part of the guilt I felt over turning down the job was the idea that I wasn't fulfilling the potential many of my professors told me I had.

As gruntled has pointed out several times, most people do eventually get married, and hopefully the students who took his class will be better prepared for the challenges of living as part of society as a whole and as part of a family.

Anonymous said...

My experience as a father of a 19 and 25 year old is that young people at least through 25 are sort of self centered and short sighted. Hopefully the values instilled by us parents will take hold before negative life changing events happen to them.Maybe that is just how they are made. May God grant us the grace and wisdom to handle whatever our kids deal to us.
just axing

Gruntled said...

As the parents of teenagers often need to remind themselves, "they aren't selfish, just self-absorbed." Helping them see the big picture, though, is one of the main aims of college.

Anonymous said...

"they aren't selfish, just self-absorbed."
are they really self-absorbed or just self-interested?
i tend to lean towards the latter. This is probably just an attempt to defend my own behavior as a teenager because when seeing the sheer stupidity in the actions of my two younger brothers (age 18 and 16) the defense for the former grows.