'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
COLLEGE STUDENTS ARE GOING TO THE DOGS
Back in mid-December there was a news story describing steps taken by some colleges and universities to help students cope with the stress of final exams. It’s called “Dog Therapy.” School administrators arranged for students to play with puppies during exam week.
When I read the story I had two thoughts. First, I thought, “Yes, that’s right. There is nothing that will put a smile on your face and help you forget your troubles faster than holding a cute puppy.”
My second thought was, “That having been said, however, this news story makes me fear for the future of our country.”
Some colleges offered other stress-relief activities during finals. The news story mentioned laser tag, oxygen bars, allowing students to dance in the library, and school leaders dressing up as the “pizza fairy” to deliver free food.
A student at Tufts University exclaimed, “I hope these puppies make me happy!” Another student said, “People just get so high-strung around finals….This is awesome!”
The Director of Wellness and Health Promotion at Oberlin College, Lori Morgan Flood, noted, “These events help students acknowledge the fact that you have to put these more stressful times into perspective. You’ll get through it.”
Some people claim nowadays that adults coddle children too much. This news story shows that we’ve gone way past that. Now adults are coddling other adults.
Let’s face it, when someone is in college—age 19, 20, 21—he or she is not exactly a child anymore. Maybe instead of treating college students as if they were still fragile little Kindergarten whelps, school administrators should be preparing them to deal with reality. If taking a test in sociology is so stressful (where you get a “B” if you show up, and an “A” if you try to answer a few of the questions), then how are these young adults going to handle real stress, like trying to find a job, paying a mortgage, becoming a parent, or the death of a loved one?
At the same time a bunch of 21-year-old American students were being encouraged by school administrators to frolic with puppies as a way to relieve anxiety, other 21-year-old Americans were facing a different kind of anxiety: trying not to get blown up in Afghanistan. The only “puppies” over there are the kind that can sniff out explosives.
It’s not that I think our culture has become way too self-absorbed, narcissistic, indulgent, spoiled, and undisciplined. (I do think that’s the case, but it’s not the point right now.) It’s just that the school administrators should not be the ones organizing these activities. If students have stress, let them visit a friend who owns a dog on their own time. Maybe if they’re required to be a bit more self-reliant and responsible, they’ll discover the best way to deal with the stress of finals week is to do a little studying in, say, November, rather than waiting until the last minute.
But no, we now live in a “therapeutic culture,” where every discomfort, however great or small, must be assuaged immediately. The Taliban must’ve read that news story and been very impressed with America’s courage and resolve.
One final thought: If colleges had fewer high-paying administrative positions, such as something called the “Director of Wellness and Health Promotion,” do you think maybe tuition wouldn’t be well over $50,000 per year? Then today’s poor little stressed-out students would not have to deal with real stress in a few years, the stress of trying to pay back over a hundred-grand in student loans. When that time comes, they’re going to need more than a puppy.
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