When I ask my students what they are stressed about they provide a litany of complaints: High student loan debt, the need to work many hours and attend school, costly housing, social pressures, and an uncertain future. When I ask them what they could do about that they stare back blankly: “What should we do about that?” they say with puzzled looks.
My students know they pay the highest state tuition in the country (we rank dead last in support for higher education here in New Hampshire). They know that college students in the US carry higher student debt than any other country in the industrialized world (most carry none). They know that climate change is real (they take science courses) and they know that the middle class is shrinking (they take economics) and that good jobs will be hard to find.
But strangely (or not so strangely) that are disengaged from these issues. They don’t believe that they have any say or control over these events. They don’t talk much about these things and instead seem to live in their own silos when it comes to matters of grave importance to their future. They have a kind of nihilistic view of life that is disheartening to many of us who are their teachers.
I have written a lot about mentoring in the past, especially when it comes to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD’s. Our most effective tool in helping people at the College who are chronic social “outsiders” has been to pair them with “insiders” who befriend them, share their wisdom, connect them with the real world. Isn’t it time we consider more planned mentoring of our lost college students? Don’t we older adults have some wisdom to share that will help guide them in a tough uncertain future?