About Mark Edmundson Essay On the Uses of a Liberal Education

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As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students, Mark Edmundson utilizes ethos, pathos, and logos to effectively deliver his argument that the current educational system, especially in college, revolves around consumerism which in turn has negatively impacted students, teachers, and universities in general. Although Edmundson presents an overall logically sound argument, there are few instances throughout the article that may hinder the reliability of his claims to the audience. Edmundson’s stance is an almost opposite to Talbot’s essay on college culture, some similarities are that they both discuss college students and their culture they create. Talbot’s essay says that students are too pressured to perform well and turn to drugs, such as Adderall, in order to improve performance. In addition to the drugs that Talbot mentions, another similarity that the essays have with each other is possible drug use. Edmundson’s argument also implies that students have many parties, this relates to Talbot’s argument because a common activity that takes place at these parties is drug use, while it may not always be the same drugs, they are still drugs.

Both essays have a general focus on college students and the culture that they have created and live in. Their main arguments are relatively different though. Edmundson argues that colleges only truly care about making the most amount of money and making the college experience an entertaining experience, rather than an educational experience. Talbot argues the almost opposite. Talbot argues that college has become too difficult and time consuming for students, leading to them struggling to keep up with the course work and being competitive with the other students. This brings them to the use of drugs, such as Adderall or Ritalin, in order to perform well and stay ahead of the curve. A common stereotype of American Colleges is to be about parties, sports events, and students being a part of Fraternities or Sororities. These stereotypes can be seen by just doing a simple google search and browsing through some of the given results.

These stereotypes may be true at some schools, but not at all. Some schools don’t focus on partying, due to them being discouraged by the school administration or by a lack of willing student participants. At some schools the students simply care about getting the good grades and getting their degree in a timely manner. Most of the parties and other activities that happen on campus are created and attended by students who live on campus in the college’s residences. At a college where the majority, or all, students commute to the campus the amount of activities on campus are naturally going to decrease or be minimal. Many four-year universities have dramatically shifted their focus from spending and providing top of the line educational resources such as books and computers to instead purchasing and building very modern facilities where, opposite the schools learning materials, are very up to date. These new building that these universities construct don’t put in much of a purpose to the students’ academic experience, but that’s not the point of them.

People are naturally materialistic, and these new facilities and shiny new devices entice students to attend that university, rather than focusing on their academics. If the university doesn’t provide these amenities, then students; or shall we say customers, won’t attend the school. Many universities offer a period of time at the beginning of a semester where students can unenroll from a course without any damages appearing on their transcript. During this time, students can shop around to find a class that they really want to buy, similar to other universities, Cal Poly Pomona’s “Add/Drop Period” has usually been around three weeks, however, it may be worth noting that for the Spring 2019 semester, CPP has extended this period by a week making it a month long. This is similar to a store’s return policy. If a student discovers a class that they are attending is not to their liking, then the student can unenroll from the course. After this, many will enroll in the same course, but with a different professor. This is because the class may be easier, or the professor may just be more interesting or funny.

Parents for these students also play a part in this as big as the student’s role, for causing the universities to become like a marketplace. At a young age, many parents follow everything the child does so that the student will never have face the result of failure thus many students having never learned how to handle failure. Many of these students wouldn’t dare to go to a university or enroll in a course that is known for students achieving low scores, doing so would ruin the student’s straight A transcript. These helicoptering parents will not deal with these low scores, so the student will enroll in an easier class or attend a university with less harsh grading systems. This fear of failing these classes has significantly lowered the demand and has forced many colleges to offer easy classes that the students know that they can get an easy A in, but with the tradeoff of the student not actually learning anything of use. Pop culture has also played a role in a university shift from academics to now being a part of the entertainment business. Students see ads on television all the time of universities and how they don’t usually mention academics, because it’s boring, and the new state of the art gym is way cooler.

It has become uncool to like school. If a student wants to go against the normal, because they actually enjoy learning, other entertainment seeking students will label that student as weird. Students fear the social pressure it takes to care about education, so instead they stray from this and suppress their passion for learning. Their passions to pursue their educational goals are therefore diminished by the not as committed students. The purpose of Edmundson’s article is to inspire students’ true thirst for learning and performing to their best, no matter the class or the university. He wants to ignite passion, he wants students to be excited about learning. He hopes students gain the courage to follow their passions for education. The college experience is incredibly overpriced and lots of colleges only want the student’s money. Some college’s, however, don’t even put forth much effort however to make the experience entertaining and worth it.

This leads into my point with Talbot’s essay. For the amount of money students must pay for college, many are not able to keep up with the curriculum though. This is not to say that students should be given good grades just for paying for the college, but many college’s do fail to provide a curriculum that is worth the amount of money they charge. For some students though, the college experience isn’t meant for them. Some students will struggle to keep up with the curriculum no matter what college they go to and will see that paying the high amount of money for college doesn’t make sense if they are just going to fail their classes and fall behind anyway. While Edmundson wants students to regain their passion for learning and to follow their dreams and care about their academics, Talbot wants the same for students but argues that some universities are too academically challenging for students, so they turn to drugs in order to keep up with their academics. This does not have as big effect as Edmundson’s argument, though. A commodity on college campuses are medicines such as Adderall or Ritalin, which are meant to help someone stay focused and motivated on their tasks at hand. The number of students taking amphetamines for nonmedical reasons is continuing to rise.

Students report that it is easy to get ADHD medication in college and studies have shown that the percentage of college students who report using ADHD stimulants for nonmedical reasons ranges from 5 to 35 percent (PubMed.gov). Moreover, national research indicates that full-time college students between the ages of 18 to 22 years old are twice as likely as those who are not full-time students to report using Adderall. The want and need for these neuro-enhancing drugs within college students is a consequence as a result from our highly competitive societies. Getting accepted into your dream college is no longer the end of the competition. From a young age people are taught to strive for bigger and better and to continue to go above and beyond. This mentality is learned from the beginning at higher end lower education levels, such as private preschools, special programs in elementary schools, and the general culture of boarding schools all introduce the idea the each person must be better than the other. Students are enveloped by the idea that they are never good enough and the overbearing pressure to perform above and beyond leads students to drug use, such as Adderall.

While stimulant misuse is definitely a concern on college campuses, many students do not think that taking these neural stimulating drugs for nonmedical purposes is particularly harmful. For example, a 2016 national survey stated that 38.5 percent of college-age individuals (19 to 22 years old) reported that regularly taking these drugs for nonmedical purposes did not pose a “great risk” to their wellbeing (PubMed.gov). This age group was the least likely, relative to 12th graders or older young adults, to disapprove of their misuse. The reason many students think this way is because medicinal effects are different for everyone. In my personal experience, I have diagnosed ADHD and take the stimulant Vyvanse in order to help me focus and do the schoolwork that I need to do. I have also taken more commonly abused drugs such as Adderall. Our bodies treat the effects of these medicines differently, I personally struggle with and without my stimulants. Without them, I am unable to focus or lack any motivation to do any work. With the stimulant though, I am able to focus on the task at hand, but I deal with other side effects such as a loss of appetite and a slight lack of sociability.

These are just my side effects however, there are many others that students may deal with. These side effects are to be monitored by a licensed professional, due to the possible harmfulness of them. Another issue with the number of neuro-enhancing drugs on campus is that it is hard to regulate the non-prescribed use of these drugs. These drugs are different than let’s say a student’s stereotypical stash of cannabis, or commonly known as weed. Weed, a recreational drug, is commonly used a stress reliever, but has been shown to cause serious long-term effects on one’s health and wellbeing. This recreational drug, and other similar drugs, are usually heavily regulated on college campuses. It can be easy to notice a student who is partaking in these drugs, because after a certain amount a person will experience a state that is commonly referred to as being “high”. Depending on how the drug is taken it can also be easy to smell if the drug is being used. Weed is different than a neural-enhancing stimulant though. Many times, it’s not easily detectable when a student is using a stimulant.

Most of these drugs are taken orally, therefore a lack of any smell of the drug being used, unless being caused by some abnormal side effect of the stimulant. One doesn’t also experience a sense of being high when taking these drugs. One may ask, if one is under suspicion of someone else misusing these stimulants than why don’t they ask to see the prescription? This issue with this is that a staggering number of students are wrongfully diagnosed with ADHD and therefore given permission and access to the use of these drugs, such as Adderall. Allie Duggan, an author for The Spectator, run by Hamilton University, discusses the rampant use of the drug Adderall and its common prescription for misdiagnosed students. “My dad used to joke that when he was in college kids would do drugs to check out, while today, we do drugs to check in. This says a lot about the society we currently live in, specifically in America. The United States diagnoses more kids with ADD/ADHD than anywhere else in the world, with 11 percent of American children currently diagnosed.

Not only does the United States have a tendency to over-diagnose ADD/ADHD in young individuals, but it has normalized and increased the accessibility of drugs such as Adderall.” (Duggan Para. 4). Duggan’s use of her dad’s joke as a personal experience shows how prevalent the issue really is to many people. It’s not always the prescriber’s fault though for the misdiagnosis. Due to the stress and vast amount of work that many college students are given, students will sometimes showcase symptoms of ADHD, when in reality they’re just unable to keep up with the assigned workload. The need today to constantly excel and to compete against others, creates a harmful and toxic environment in which students are willing to make irrational decisions and jeopardize their health in order to succeed. This issue will only improve if today’s society begins to slow down and place greater attention on the mental well-being of people rather than their efficiency and workforce value, however, this seems near impossible for modern society. The first step towards finding a solution is recognizing the problem, however.

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