Last week a student of mine asked for an analysis of my position about ” Social rah-rah ” activities. Having exhausted my capacity for kidding, I shall proceed to do so.
My real quarrel is neither with rah-rah students nor their equivalent. The basic issue is far broader than either them or the college. That issue is not, “are student activities wrong?” but, “what is the business of the colleges?”
The business of the colleges is education and integration—education through an intelligent, well-rounded intellectual program, integration through activities that will better fit the student for life in the modern world. Student activities, as they now exist, have little relevance to the problems of the modern world. Programs of action formulated by the student council have no lasting worth. What dance, party, banquet, or social affair has made better or more intelligent citizens ? This is not to say that we should not have social affairs; it is to say that we need something besides social affairs.
The tax payers spend lakhs of rupees to send one student through one year of college. The taxpayer deserves in return better citizens who will repay his confidence with intelligent action. He will not be repaid by students who have failed to receive the kind of integration that will make them useful citizens. These students are the natural leaders of tomorrow. But where will they lead us if the schools do not direct their talents toward socially useful goals? The fault is not that of the rah-rah students; the fault is that of the system which creates rah-rah students.
The great value of democracy is that it places the responsibility for mature thought and action upon the person. When citizens cannot meet their obligations, democracy fails. If the college students of today are to meet the challenges of tomorrow they must be taught to think and act maturely, to understand their responsibilities toward society. The very concept of democracy, the concept of the free mind, is under attack today as it has never been before. That attack will succeed or fail only in direct relation to the success or failure of the colleges in turning out educated and integrated citizens.
The colleges can succeed, and the students who are today tacking up party posters can help them succeed. The rah-rahers are for the most part intelligent and have strong leadership qualities; they are people with ideas that could be of great benefit to the college and its students. But the chance to train these people of ability to the benefit of the college and the nation is being wasted by directing their energies primarily toward social activities. There the activities program is failing us, them, and democracy.