Apocalyptic Boredom

Mein Kampus

Neoliberalism sucks the brains out of a generation.

Doug and Mike Starn / Take Off Your Skin, It Ain't No Sin, 2007

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A cultural shift is happening on university campuses across North America. Students are lining up for mental health services faster than they can be treated. This shift is defining a generation and marks a profound change in the mental environment on campuses today. There was a time not so long ago when students used to reach out for help with a particular life crisis: a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, difficulty with a major decision. Today, however, students are complaining that their life is the crisis, an all-pervasive sense of bleakness about themselves and their future that didn’t exist a generation ago. This transition from the incidental to the total is nothing short of a socialized paradigm shift, one that has transformed higher learning from a space of exploration and freedom to a prison of the mind. Fueled by stress, anxiety, pressure and competition, many of today’s students are struggling not only to learn but also to survive.

Dr. Erika Horwitz, associate director of health counseling services at one of Canada’s largest undergraduate universities, Simon Fraser, said the hypercompetitive environment at universities where students are pitted against each other in a perceived zero-sum game for fewer and fewer jobs, is pushing a generation of youth to the edge.

“The current ideologies of success and beauty are unprecedented … students are coming in at increasing rates, saying they can’t cope.”

The upward trend of psycho trauma on North American campuses is documented each year in the Association of University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey. Their results are alarming. More than two-thirds of student health centers say they don’t have enough resources and counselors to deal with the growing numbers of clients. Thirty-four percent of centers have ongoing waitlists. The number one reason for visits is anxiety, at 40 percent, followed closely by depression at 38 percent. On top of this, dual diagnosis is rapidly rising with most students coming in with deadly mixes of anxiety, depression, body image disparities and suicidal thoughts. And all directors agree that the numbers are going up.

These results indicate what happens when the dominant economic ideology of the age, neoliberalism, creeps into the mentality of science and arts. The campus isn’t a place to study Heidegger anymore. Nor is it a place to query the relative nature of the Bohr atom. It is a place to get a leg up on the competition, and competition is fierce. This is a place to cheat when you can, to choose easy courses with easy professors, to trade learning for sycophancy, to deliberately ask one question per class, regardless of interest, for that extra participation grade and to escape into private and isolated worlds when the curve determines only 20 percent are allowed to get that coveted A. In a generation, the message has changed. This is not a place to find your self anymore; this is not a cultural rite of passage; this is a cultural requirement. From students’ first application signature to the day they toss their cap and gown, the new message is clear: a four-year BA will not be enough; one foul grade could ruin your chances at graduate school and consequently your life. This message is snuffing out our brightest minds.

Darren Fleet

78 comments on the article “Mein Kampus”

Displaying 61 - 70 of 78

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Anonymous

Knowledge is power. But at the same time, what do we really know? All knowledge is relative and I realize that not what you know, but how you know, is what's important. We must learn to see with an artistic, visionary eye. To see clearly our goals and use experience and wisdom to attain them. Schools have become limiting and short-sighted. Sure a high paying job may get you to retirement at 60, but I'd rather die poor than to accept that I lived my life within the boundaries of what other men and women had outlined for me. We need science, spirituality and creativity. The three fit together better than most would admit, and whether God or global warming are taboos in your vocab, their is infinite wisdom to others experience. The depth of humanity is building on humanity to reach new heights. Just do your aware part.

Anonymous

Knowledge is power. But at the same time, what do we really know? All knowledge is relative and I realize that not what you know, but how you know, is what's important. We must learn to see with an artistic, visionary eye. To see clearly our goals and use experience and wisdom to attain them. Schools have become limiting and short-sighted. Sure a high paying job may get you to retirement at 60, but I'd rather die poor than to accept that I lived my life within the boundaries of what other men and women had outlined for me. We need science, spirituality and creativity. The three fit together better than most would admit, and whether God or global warming are taboos in your vocab, their is infinite wisdom to others experience. The depth of humanity is building on humanity to reach new heights. Just do your aware part.

walrus

these kids are coming from high school where a D is passing and going to a college with all the kids doing their hardest to get A's. No wonder kids get suicidal thoughts. The article really sucks from a 17 year old's point of view. What am I supposed to do then? The military or "prison" hm. I can't forget becoming a criminal also seems very lucrative at this time.

walrus

these kids are coming from high school where a D is passing and going to a college with all the kids doing their hardest to get A's. No wonder kids get suicidal thoughts. The article really sucks from a 17 year old's point of view. What am I supposed to do then? The military or "prison" hm. I can't forget becoming a criminal also seems very lucrative at this time.

Anonymous

I have degrees from two institutions of higher education and have taught at four over the past 10 years and, while I think some of what the main article describes has a basis, I think it paints a one-sided picture.

Perhaps if the author presented the so-called facts in a more neutral manner and examined things with a critical, doubting eye, his argument would be more persuasive.

As it is, I fear that most educated people will see that the depiction of neoliberalism as the cause of increased anxiety and depression is not supported by the evidence, in fact could not be supported. There are too many confounding factors.

While I agree that neoliberal policies must be fought with every breath in order to defend democracy, I think articles such as these weaken our position and strengthen the opposition. There are plenty of argumentatively sound reasons to oppose neoliberalism without this kind of blanket speculation.

Anonymous

I have degrees from two institutions of higher education and have taught at four over the past 10 years and, while I think some of what the main article describes has a basis, I think it paints a one-sided picture.

Perhaps if the author presented the so-called facts in a more neutral manner and examined things with a critical, doubting eye, his argument would be more persuasive.

As it is, I fear that most educated people will see that the depiction of neoliberalism as the cause of increased anxiety and depression is not supported by the evidence, in fact could not be supported. There are too many confounding factors.

While I agree that neoliberal policies must be fought with every breath in order to defend democracy, I think articles such as these weaken our position and strengthen the opposition. There are plenty of argumentatively sound reasons to oppose neoliberalism without this kind of blanket speculation.

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