Student culture in college
Student culture is the widest context of behavior and develops in an effort to please the whole range of basic academic needs. Thus, Student culture in college is always very influential in his or her academic performance.
Students have always resisted to some extent the authority of the teacher and the learning to impart. Such resistance has been strong and organized in American society, deriving from attitudes developed in the home and neighborhood and reinforced in the age groups of the young. Schools and colleges themselves contain sub worlds that orient students through their own enduring traditions. Some of these worlds are all that the teacher could ask, with the members critically pursuing intellectual interests and academic tasks, as well as otherwise supporting the school. However neither in the lower grades nor in college have the norms of academia characteristically dominated the students; rather nonintellectual and anti-intellectual orientations have succeeded (Wallace, W.
L. 1966).In viewing student culture, numerous alternatives present themselves: we could, for instance, ask into dating and mating practices. We shall mostly bypass the romantic, however, to center on the development of the mind, seeking to determine the outcome of students’ orientations and informal life for the purposes most citizens and educators see as central to the schools. What are the social conditions within schools and colleges of academic achievement? What causes students to be supportive of, indifferent to, or hostile toward the formal purposes of education?A major concern of most entering students is with receipt by their fellows, with being included in the student society. This means that they should learn and, to an adequate degree, assimilate the prevailing student culture.
For several students this process requires almost no adjustment, since they bring a very similar culture with them from their schools; for others the process of integration is more or less automatic; and for still others it is a matter of some deliberate choice. Simply small minorities succeed in remaining aloof, and have a sagacity of separateness from their peer culture. Possibly for most students the integration of this culture is their major experience in college. One can hardly overvalue its importance to the student. It offers a major basis for a sense of identity. It shows the guideposts to a contented life within a complex community: how to get along with one’s fellow students, how to deal through the faculty in such a way as to withstand their persuasion but yet keep relations pleasant, how to visualize of young men and to manage the whole business of dating.
Finally, it gives valuable preparation for life after college, offering fairly pragmatic conceptions of future roles and statuses, inculcating the values and teaching the social skills that are well premeditated to be suitable in the anticipated future.Toward the college and its universal policies and practices, the peer culture is uncritically accepting; if things come up which are objectionable or otherwise objectionable it saves itself from association by saying, “Well, we’re only going to be here another year or two.” And similarly with deference to the affairs of the world, the peer culture does not feel called upon to have opinions: “We are simply students, learning how to think, and there is so much to be said on both sides.” With respect to people, the peer culture is as liberal as it is of ideas (Zweigenhaft, R. L. 1993).
There is practically no exclusion from student society on the basis of race, religion, ethnic group, or social environment. Anyone can belong, so long as she does not intentionally reject the peer culture or defy its ways.The future is seen by the peer culture with sanguinity and, perhaps, over realism. There is a vision of a stable but highly composite society in which one can make a happy, that is to say, substantially gratifying, life by fitting in. The techniques for fitting in are specifically those being taught by the peer culture: be friendly, supportive, agreeable, tolerant, optimistic, and moral.Not all students, of course, recognize the prevailing student culture, and we find a general inclination to move away from it in the senior year, but it seems fair to say that at any given time a majority of the students are contributing more or less fully in this culture.
The most extensively held stereotype of college life in America pictures the “collegiate subculture,” a world of football, fraternities along with sororities, dates, cars and drinking, and campus fun. The leading symbols of this subculture are the star athlete, the homecoming queen, and the fraternity dance. A good deal of student life on numerous campuses revolves around this subculture; it both gives substance for the stereotypes of movies and cartoons and models itself on those stereotypes (Nishimura, N. J. 1998)The collegiate subculture has been a strong if not the prevailing governor of student life ever since the 1890’s. In the period 1880-1910, faculties lost much of the control they previously had over student activities.
In this golden age of American history, the viewpoint of the gentlemen’s C developed and the “side shows” of the campus were elaborated. Membership in fraternities rose from 72,000 to 270,000 in the 25 years after 1890; social clubs emerged to set the social pecking order of many campuses; and football became a fever. College came increasingly to be what the undergraduate made it, and in his raccoon coat he chose to make it the life of Joe College.Today, the fraternities and sororities set the patterns of the idealistic way of life. The activities within their own houses most fully typify this subculture; fraternity members also employ heavily in the extracurricular activities of the campus, more than do the independents, and their contribution extends their influence.Teachers and courses and grades are in this picture, but to some extent dimly in the background.
The fraternities have to make their grade point average; students have to hit the books occasionally if they are to get their diplomas, gestures have to be made to the adult world of courses and grades which offer the justification for the collegiate round.In content, this system of values and activities is not intimidating to the college, to which, indeed it generates strong loyalties and attachments. It is, however, unresponsive and resistant to serious demands emanating from the faculty, or parts of it, for an association with ideas and issues over and above that requisite to gain the diploma.The collegiate culture is typically upper- and upper-middle-class; it takes money and leisure to practice the busy round of social activities and additions on the resident campuses of big state universities. Commuting students, part-time work, intense vocational interests, an urban location, all work against the full peak of a collegiate subculture; as do student aspirations for graduate or professional school, or more generally, serious intellectual or professional interests on the part of students and faculty.
The collegiate culture give to forces behind this growing vocationalism — professionalism, occupationalism, technicalism, or whatever else we might wish to call it are summarized here to establish better their jointly re-enforcing effects.The expansion of higher education is in great part a response to the growth of professional, managerial, and technical occupations which need advanced training. As a consequence of this change in the occupational structure, and also causative to it, the growth in the undergraduate college population in current years has been largely in fields of applied study, such as business administration, engineering, and education.Formal education has been the chief ladder of mobility for aspiring lower- and lower-middle-class people in America for numerous decades. Their movement toward college continues the worldly trend toward greater education which saw the growth of virtually universal secondary education in the thirty years between 1910 and 1940.
People of lower social origins now more and more see college as the prerequisite for the economic and social advancement of their children, and these perceptions are revealed in the rapidly growing college enrollments. As an instrument for the achievement of higher status, college is distinct as a way of getting the training and diplomas which are desired for the better-paying jobs (Kuh, G. D., Hu, S., & Vesper, N. 2000).
This rapid expansion of college turnout among job-oriented young people of lower social origins has taken place mainly in the public colleges. These colleges are inexpensive, liberal in admission, and often conveniently located; they are responsive to state and local demands and willingly offer training for the expanding array of occupations that require advanced skills. Broadly organized, they take on many characteristics of a large service enterprise. Their obligation to liberal education is only partial.The comprehensive colleges are people-processing institutions, whose administrative staffs should deal with and organize the scattered activities of large numbers of students enrolled in a variety of programs.
Relations between teachers and students under these conditions are naturally in the mass, fleeting, and impersonal. Moreover, in the university, teachers entail themselves less with students because they are busy with research, professional activity, and off-campus service. Impersonal relationships between students and faculty members, and between students, fit vocational learning, which aims to convey technical information proficiently.A growing proportion of college students enroll in nonresidential colleges. Living at home and holding part-time or full-time jobs, students visit the college campus to attend class or use the library; they drop in and out of college, some ultimate in six to eight years while numerous do not finish at all. In brief, the student role is narrowed to course work and squeezed in among other roles that are slanting off campus.
All these forces, which are on the rise in American higher education, lessen the impact of college on the student in the older academic sense and sustain vocationalism. Increasingly, students with narrow vocational interests enroll in colleges where faculties and administrators neither are capable nor strongly motivated to transform those interests.This trend means that a diverse kind of cultural conflict is emerging in colleges compared with the past. The great competition on American campuses over the past fifty years has been between the academic and the collegiate subcultures, with the faculty upholding academic values, and the majority of students effectively opposing them with their own nonintellectual or anti-intellectual interests. Increasingly, however, the struggle is between the career and academic subcultures, with the cleavage more nearly vertical proponents of each set of values found in the faculty as well as in the student body.
Both the vocational and the academic orientations are “adult” in a way that the collegiate culture is not; while collegiate practices were extensively condoned by college authorities, comparatively few adults in college were prepared to protect them as an sufficient definition of the college experience. On the contrary, the vocational orientation as the primary orientation to college is held in very reputable quarters, finds expression in books on educational philosophy, and has numerous spokesmen both among college teachers and administrators. The collegiate life was not “serious,” but vocationalism is. It borrows several of the traditional symbols of academia: pictures of students listening to a lecture or hard at work in a library can as effortlessly be signs of vocational training as of liberal education. The engineer’s slide rule swinging from the belt in its brown case perhaps most peculiarly symbolizes the vocational subculture a picture, by the way, not anathema to most faculty members today.
The new conflict between vocational and academic values new simply in extent is not as dramatic as the old one between the collegiate and the academic subcultures; the symbols are less apparent and the cleavage is not so sharply drawn along the lines of academic status and rank. Although the outcomes of the conflict mean much for students’ experiences in college and for the nature and functions of higher education. In fact we undoubtedly will see the conflict result in diverse combinations of the academic and the vocational subcultures. The distinction will lie in whether they are combined in liberal proportions or blended by adding a drop of the one to a heavy amount of the other.The American high school is in profound trouble, whether because of low achievement scores, student boredom, or lack of attention paid to the formation of students competent of consuming and especially producing high-level scientific and technological knowledge apparently linked to the maintenance of America’s position as a world power.
While the criterion through which the schools are assessed and the proposals for reforms themselves are diverse, there is general consent that something is wrong with the nation’s schools.Although the reports diverge in some rather profound ways, they all presume student cultures can be made to change. This assumption that student outcomes are an effortless function of certain within-school factors and can be altered if simply these factors are manipulated is incorrect. Student outcomes are joined rather directly to the cultures students themselves produce within the institutions in which they exist in. These cultures do not occur in relation to within-school factors alone.
As elements of student cultures might represent a response to definite school practices.Student cultures are, rather, semi-autonomous and, as such, cannot be proscribed easily or directly. They arise in relation to structural conditions in the better society and the way in which these conditions are interceded by both the experience of schooling and the lived experiences of youth in their own communities. Not any things of the proposals for reform address these issues. Since student cultures are intimately linked to school outcomes, such outcomes cannot be altered in any considerable way by manipulating within-school factors (Kuh, G. D.
1995).One should work with student culture to improve it. The culture which students convey conditions their “ways of doing things” and exerts a strong and undirected control on student life unless a personnel staff is aware of it and continuously works with it. Crises arise in student life because of the influence of “family ingrown ways of thinking” interiorized in students. How does one deal with them? The crises in the college with the rural ministerial students was handled through group discussion and resulted in the development of more social intellect.
By understanding the student value-systems, their ends and goals, it is probable to select “learning” experiences through which they can achieve these goals. On the whole, culture is a learned and a socially attained behavior.Changes in educational and social programs, as well as changes in curricular and administrative areas, might have to take place. Also, one must be particularly alert to observe behavior on the college campus and study what particular culture mores are operating. It is significant to study how the entire student body functions in an interrelated pattern, representing, as it does, numerous cultural patterns.As to the parental patterns, it is found in interviews with several personnel workers that the expectancies of parents control many mores on the campus.
In this struggle for the direction, the molding, and the control of behavior patterns or mores of youth, it is perhaps essential for the college to define the province of the family and the educational institution. If one gave greater thought to parental-institutional compatibilities and adjustments, young people might be secure the hazards of parent versus college objectives. After analyses of these family cultural problems of their students, personnel workers and educators must create the necessary setting for social nearness and shared help between the student, the parent, and the college. An educational process and program may be needed to meet this problem more attention to the problem in orientation programs, and wherever potential on the campus, the holding of parent institutes. It is simply as parents understand themselves and what the college is demanding to do that improvement can take place.One should not have the impression that family values and beliefs should be overthrown.
They cannot be. But it is important for the student to learn to rethink his values, restructure them, and broaden them as he lives through his college experience.Customs, habits, and traditions, whether they come from the recognized culture outside the college, or in part from outside and in part from within the college, or completely within the college-all have cultural and social heritage power which is hard to break and numerous of them do not prove constructive. All, whether constructive or destructive, exert a social control over the life of students. A personnel worker must be interested in the traditions and customs of his college community as they influence student behavior, and from time to time must think through and assess their values in his dealings with students, faculty, and administrators.
But, first of all, he should know what they are, why they exist, how they originated, what purpose they serve, and whether they should be sustained or discontinued.As customs related to certain special days, as founders’ day, home-coming affairs, and football games. On the other hand, the invasive characteristics which have even greater control of student life are often in covert form. The existing spirit of the college, codes of honor, beliefs, and social systems among students are often hard to penetrate. One should know these pervasive hidden controls which students wield among themselves in the social life on the campus.
Thought must be given to ways in which they can be carefully nurtured in so far as they lead to positive social control on the campus.Some of them exist, if one will analyze the illustrations which have been given, to satisfy or persist a pattern in the culture from which the students come, such as the Old Maids’ Gate on the Southern campus. Some exist to commemorate the culture of the institution, as those of the Yale system and the Founders’ Day customs of Vassar and many other colleges. Others, such as “The Masque of the Yellow Moon” at the junior college noted, continue as they vitalize and bring to mind the culture and history of the community in which the college is located. Others exist to satisfy the faith, codes, and beliefs of the founders and of those who still sustain the institution, for example, the customs marked in strong denominational colleges.
Still others exist to educate the college and the community to their tasks to the society in which they live, for example, the traditional events of some of the Negro state colleges of the South. All exist to enable a system of social relationships, where not even a change in economic resources of the students could change the pattern.Again, observing the illustrations mentioned as well as instances from other colleges, one can discern as several of the sources the presidents or founders of the college, an outstanding faculty member, and the students themselves. Numerous of them originate in spontaneous informal student groups, or from outside sources, such as people who can envision what certain customary events can mean in the life of the community. Many traditions, too, have come about from invention, imitation of other colleges, and diffusion from college to college, mainly those near by.
Essentially, one can say they are meeting the fundamental needs of students –the social needs, the need for stability, for response, and for appreciation. They give the student a sense of “belonging,” of having an experience in common with his peers, and of fulfilling the “we” feeling. Again, the mores cement a student body in common feeling, they create morale, they furnish social control and steadiness on the campus. Also, traditions serve to provoke the spirit of rivalry and competition–the patterns in our American culture on which colleges also thrive. One college should have what other colleges have. Colleges must convey and hand down a social heritage to younger generations so they will still like prestige and status.
Certainly those traditions and customs which give an invasive constructive tone to a college student body must be continued. The pervading spirit of a college campus has a definitely uplifting effect and forms good morale. From cautious observation and study and by keeping records of student sayings and behavior patterns one might discover what are their underlying codes of honor or beliefs. If the invasive spirit is not constructive, then by discussions of values, by drawing on interests of students for campus activities, by collaboration of the faculty, by use of all-college convocations, leadership classes, students may be brought to develop a sense of accountability and a better pervasive philosophy for campus life. Certainly, traditions and customs which work for better understanding, better assimilation of all groups on the campus, greater morale and satisfaction in meeting the needs of all students should not be derelict (Kuh, G.
D. 1990).Changed interests of the students very often eradicate them. Contacts with groups of other colleges which may have more positive customs sometimes change them. Leaders with strong personalities have been thriving in changing them. Administrative fiat is used in some instances where in a crisis the good of the whole student body might be at stake.
Usually, however, it is not satisfactory for the administration to transform by fiat destructive mores. In conferences with deans one hears of state laws and administrative ultimatums against hazing and other adverse customs, but generally they end their remarks by saying that “they slip in anyway.” Replacement of another custom may have some effect, but if it is not cautiously thought through, the second custom may become as adverse as the first.Culture sets the chief structure within which the individual learns to function with his fellows; the mores grow out of this culture. The culture of each college is diverse from every other, depending upon its particular history, the composition of the student body, the geological location, the special social heritage, and various other factors. The mores are indigenous to the culture of each college; there can be similarities in the cultures of certain colleges but there are similarly certain consistent differences which only the students of one particular campus will share.
The genetic origin, founding, and beginning of each college have established a cultural order which leaves its mark throughout the years of its history. This cultural order is founded on certain values and goals which become embedded and operative in the members of a college community though folkways, faiths, codes, beliefs, philosophies, and ways of living either in one large group or amongst several small groups. These values, goals, and ways of doing things in a college community become customized by the culture which new students bring, by the continuity or discontinuity of the social inheritance and established culture of the college as an institutional system, by the culture of the wider community, and by the physical and material equipment of the college. The mores of a particular college campus are the consequence of its whole cultural order. Culture is the widest context of human behavior and develops in an effort to please the whole range of basic human needs.The world is becoming a more compactly organized world; greater struggles are being made for equalities, racial, economic, and religious, and for a science of human behavior.
These mores of the wider culture must have new meaning for the campus culture, the group life, the social relationships, the town and gown relationships, the interests of former students, the influence of national organizations, and the influence of society at large. The college might be built more into the lives of the people in the outside culture; a prospect might arise for carrying higher culture to the “folks”; problems of the larger society peculiar to a geographical location might come in the horizons of student life. If social conditions of society at large are studied in the curricular and extracurricular activities, more insight might be gained into the social behavior of students. Group life could develop into living relationships rather than exist on competitive in-group and out group basis.