November 19, 2012

The American people have increasingly become docile and reliant on government largess. I see a parallel between this burgeoning dependency and the breeding of dachshunds. 

The dachshund was bred as a killing machine to burrow and eradicate badgers, rabbits and, in the United States, prairie dogs. Its body is muscular with paws adapted to digging, and it has a keen sense of smell. Its large lung capacity allows it to dig underneath its prey to catch it by surprise. Packs of dachshunds were even used to hunt wild boar and wolverines. Thus, in their natural state they are not pets suitable for small children.

But little money is to be made breeding subterranean killing machines no matter how cute or adorable. Professional breeders have therefore wisely bred out the dachshund’s hyper-aggressive traits to arrive at an animal that more closely resembles a submissive toy poodle. It does not take much. Just cull out the snarly ones and voilà“€”you have a cute, tame wiener dog. 

We don”€™t yet breed people into lapdogs, but the contemporary university is doing all it can to accomplish such a goal”€”creating a citizenry that instinctively looks to the federal government for its protection and sustenance. What is perhaps most remarkable about manufacturing this “€œnew person”€ is that it seems normal to the point of not even being noticed. Today’s college students are now liberated from nearly every responsibility that once constituted growing up. It is no wonder that among today’s college graduates, adolescent behavior persists well into the 30s.

“€œToday’s college students are now liberated from nearly every responsibility that once constituted growing up.”€

A few obvious campus examples must suffice. Want friends who share common interests? In the pre-modern universities students themselves shouldered this responsibility. Nowadays the Dean of Students heads up a vast bureaucracy that facilitates dozens of university-funded, university-supervised affinity groups, everything from a safe house for lesbians of color to supplying basement rooms for chess aficionados. 

What is notable here is how “€œforming an affinity group”€ has become “€œgetting the university to support the group,”€ as if seeking friends outside university control was physically and financially impossible. Civil-rights groups have evolved into organizations where the key question is not how best to solve a problem but rather, “€œHow can we get government funds to tackle a problem?”€

This slow slide into almost unconscious dependence was made clear to me via an exchange of views with a student who complained that his university imposed secular values on his school-funded religious group. I advised him to sever all ties to the university”€”raise funds privately, rent a meeting space at the Holiday Inn, and drop the university’s name or logo. My advice barely registered. His rejoinder assumed that independence was not feasible even though the costs might only be a few hundred dollars a year for everything”€”a pittance for religious freedom. 

Consider recreation, hardly a commodity that only a university can supply. Surely there are local gyms, bowling allies, pool halls, and YMCAs happy to have student business. In contemporary schools, however, this responsibility is now part of “€œStudent Affairs.”€ The same pattern holds for entertainment and spectator sports. Again, no need to make budgeting choices let alone “€œpay,”€ since everything is “€œfree.”€ Even dining services have been upgraded to discourage students from finding, let alone cooking, their own meals. (This continues the policy of “€œfree”€ government-subsidized lunches and breakfasts that begins in grade school.) The university’s “€œfree”€ healthcare service not only dispenses condoms gratis, it supplies “€œfree counseling”€ for the gender-confused.


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