Thursday, September 27, 2007

Steve Smith's Fantasy World

Daily Pilot columnist Steve Smith apparently fancies himself nanny to us all. I've just finished reading and re-reading his most recent attempt at the enlightenment of the populace with his column entitled "Drake lacks faith in students", here, published September 25th. You can chalk it up to my steady march to geezerdom, but I'm having a tough time finding a point in all his verbiage.

I'm guessing the point of his piece was to let UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake off the hook for the way he botched the hiring of Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the new UCI law school. If his point was, as he says in his first paragraph, " people can do dumb things", he should have stopped right there, because much of what followed was just plain tough to comprehend. For example, in his 7th paragraph he says, "What Michael Drake did was not bring ridicule to the school, or hire the right or wrong dean, he exposed himself as a weak manager, as a flip-flopper, so to speak." What?! Did he mean to say, "Michael Drake brought ridicule to the school by vacillating on his choice of a dean for the new law school, plus he exposed himself as a weak manager."? If so, why didn't he say it?


Further on,
referring to kids in college these days, he says, "The fact is that by the time they get to college, most kids already have their core beliefs established. By the time they get to college, these kids are either doing drugs or they are not. They are either drinking to excess on occasion or they are not." Really? While I'm sure that many kids go off to college fully grounded in those values we think will contribute to their success, many of them do not. Many arrive at a campus far from home with new-found freedom without a clue how to handle it. In fact, one recent high-profile case provides a perfect example.

That would be the case of Todd Marinovich, the "roboquarterback" so finely tuned, molded and controlled by his father that, once at USC, he didn't just fall off the deep end - he took a running start and leaped as far as he could! Once away from his parent's influence he left a trail of drug abuse and other crimes in his wake which cost him a very promising future in professional football. Those behaviors follow him to this day - twenty years after he left home for college - and keep his life in perpetual legal turmoil.

College is a time for growth, both academically and emotionally. It may also be a time of experimentation - a time to spread those wings and attempt to fly. Some kids use chemical enhancement to boost them to new "heights". Some kids are prepared for the college experience, others are not. I suspect there are many parents reading this today that would be shaken to the bone if they knew what their kids are actually up to during their college days.


Once again, the preachy Smith attempts to overlay his "pristine" life experience - the one without television, among other things - onto a real world situation. Once again, he fails to make his point. I frequently find myself wondering how his two kids, which he regularly mentions in his commentaries, are going to cope with the real world once they fly from his televisionless nest. How will they adapt to a world full of television-induced influences on their young psyches? Will they understand the language of their peers once at college, or will it be like studying in Russia? I think old Steve needs to lengthen the leash little. Kids raised under a perpetual umbrella will have no clue what to do when that first unexpected raindrop smacks them in the head.

In the meantime, I'm always grateful for small favors. In this case, it's only getting one dose of Smith per week.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


As you know I tend to avoid Mr. Smith's columns. I hate being reminded about how awful a parent I am. So I can't really add to your discussion of his column.

I will say though that your post coincides with my just having read an article in today's Wall Street Journal (sorry I can't find a link at the moment) that classifies different types of helicopter parents and what level of influence they attempt to interject in their kids college experience. It was very enlightening.

As for parents being shocked at what their kids are doing, I would venture to say that some kids would be shocked at what their parent did at college!

9/27/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

As a UC Berkeley student in the 60s and currently as an instructor at both CSULB and Chapman University, I can safely say,

"Plus ça change, plus ça reste le même." The more things change..."

Mr. Smith's little darlings are going to go wild when they leave home. I know I certainly did.

9/29/2007 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sure hope my son doesn't emulate me...not pretty!

10/04/2007 10:39:00 AM  

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