Robby Soave’s recent article in the Daily Beast: “College students need remedial classes in how to be adults”, stirs me to write this blog response.
The article implies that our college kids are wimps that can’t handle real life. I’d like to suggest that this article’s snarky tone makes a mockery of what is really going on. While he seems to see the fact that students are seeking counseling more and colleges/universities are building resilience programs to support them is a bad thing, I think it would serve us all better to say, yes, FINALLY! We’ve ignored mental health for generations and we are finally turning the corner on that. People are seeking counseling when they need it. We’ve taken the shame out of seeking counseling but Soave’s article seems to want to put us back to those old days. That’s ridiculous.
To his comment of whether 18 years is enough time to prepare for the stresses of being an adult, the answer is no. If he had done more research, he would’ve learned that we now know that brain development doesn’t complete until age 23-25. So our 18 year olds are still maturing. That means if we want to ensure full human capacity development we should be continuing to guide 18 year olds and not throw them to the wolves to figure out how to get through the chaos of freshman year alone. These university programs recognize this.
As to students overwhelming the counseling centers. He sees this as a bad thing while I see it as a good thing. Because we’ve finally reached a point where people seek help for mental health issues instead of ignoring them for a lifetime. I can tell you as a counselor for 20+ years, I work with adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are still dealing with challenges that happened in their teens and 20s but didn’t get the help they needed then. My hope is that this current generation will interrupt that, get the guidance and counseling they need in their younger years and have far better lives in their later years as a result.
While he likes the term remedial adulting, I think the university’s term of resiliency education is spot on. Did he know that the military now employs resiliency education for returning vets because studies show that helping someone who has been under tremendous stress learn coping skills has tremendous benefits. The military doesn’t expect vets to go figure it out all by themselves—they’re reaching out to help and so are our universities with these new programs. This is a good thing on so many levels.
To his comment “too many university students seem to have missed out on vital conflict-resolution, de-stressing and life-organizing techniques during their previous 12 years of schooling”. I would like to ask him when was the last time he was in a high school? This generation may have helicopter parents but they’ve also been pushed to take on ever more academic challenges, sports, community outreach projects etc., under the guise of competing to get into the best colleges. They aren’t getting conflict-resolution, de-stressing and life-organizing techniques while there! Instead, they’re overwhelmed and colleges are aware of this and trying to offer a broader view of life for their students. In fact, I present my whole person framework called the Life Puzzle to college students. It shows them how to build a whole and dynamic life. The number one comment I get from students is “Why didn’t anyone ever teach me this in high school?” And my answer is always—“Because high schools are obsessed with academic development but not human development.” Universities are now realizing this has serious consequences and so they are now taking the step to change this.
So to wrap this up, I think we should be saying ‘kudos’ to our universities and colleges for making the effort to offer these new programs. They are looking for solutions and seeking to ensure that when their students graduate these young adults are more prepared than any other generation to have full lives. In other words, these programs are preparing students to be successful in the 21st century and a very changing world. Who wouldn’t want that?