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College Kids Are Barbarians

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Sean Murphy | Lifesize | Getty Images

College students are barely civilized barbarians who are fundamentally lacking in the basic skills required to succeed as human beings.

That may be overstating Professor Jeff Cornwall's case a little—but not much.

Last week, Professor Cornwall wrote a piece called "Are Gen-Y Employees Killing Professionalism?" in which he argues: "Those of us preparing college students for their careers face it almost everyday as professors—students who seem to lack the professional skills and even basic social skills that they will need to succeed in business"

So, basically, barbarians.

The professor goes on to enumerate their sins. College students, it seems:

  • "sleep in class"
  • "Facebook during lectures"
  • "text message as we talk to them in our offices"
  • Some even have the temerity to "wear their hats on backwards"

What's more, Cornwall isn't sanguine about the future: "Our natural tendency is to throw our hands in the air in frustration and hope it does not get even worse before the time comes for us to retire."

In fairness to professor Cornwall, he seems to have only the best of intentions. (For example, he dedicates more than half of his article to finding practical solutions to the 'behavioral problems'.)

The professor's complaints about the decadence of the young have a distinguished pedigree. For example, the following—attributed to Plato:

"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers."

I say 'attributed to' rather than 'written by' because no one can find it in Plato's original texts.

One dictionary of quotationssuggests the quote is entirely spurious—despite its popularity since around 1960. (The timeframe for the apocryphal coinage certainly accords with history: According to the curmudgeon's view of the 20th Century, Jack Kennedy ruined the world by taking off his top hat at his inauguration—then the kids dispensed with dance steps entirely, and started getting all uppity about being shot at in Southeast Asia.)

Professor Cornwall should not overmuch fret: Western civilization has survived much worse than the indignities of Facebook.

For example: The Thirty Tyrants rule over Athens

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