An essay by Williams College official Ferentz Lafargue entitled, “Welcome to the ‘Real World'” was recently published on The Washington Post, making the argument that college students aren’t the “coddled” monsters that many people like to make them out to be.
Most students are aware of the initiatives to create “safe spaces” and pay attention to their pronouns, in the hopes of trying to make people feel comfortable and included. These issues are at the crux of Lafargue’s essay. He begins by offering a rebuttle to arguments that universities do not prepare students for the “real world,” which is laden with homophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism and racism.
“Telling students either explicitly or implicitly that they should grin and bear it is the last thing one should do as an educator. Yet that is essentially the gospel that the ‘wait until the real world’ parishioners would have many of us adopt.” he writes at the Post. Colleges should be teaching students to make their voices heard first at school, so they can continue advocating for change after college. He doesn’t want students to just live with the status quo.
He goes on to explain that students’ lives are not entirely shaped by their college environment, but by family, friends, neighborhoods, former schools and romantic relationships as well. He discusses the workshops and seminars that are held at Williams for incoming students annually to help inform students about race, gender and sexuality issues.
Lafargue then switches gears, posing the question, “There are broader questions as well, such as: Is college a place for intellectual exploration? Or is it a glorified worker-training program?”
He mentions that for many students, especially those that come from low-income families, the debates about the above questions represent a wider scope than just college: how they can fit into society as a functioning adult.
Lafargue concludes his essay with a poignant quote: “The truth of the matter is, “coddled” students are not the problem. The real culprits — on campuses and in the real world — are the persistent effects of homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, poverty, racism, sexism, white supremacy and xenophobia. When students refuse to accept discrimination on college campuses, they’re learning important lessons about how to fight it everywhere.”