The New Chernobyl

The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident was one of the very worst disasters.

Aside from its catastrophic immediate effects, the long-term, wide-ranging effects on life forms of every kind are immeasurable. Occasionally, news programs revisit the city of Pripyat, where the Chernobyl plant was located.

Now abandoned and desolate, invariably the city is pictured with its stark (if stereotypic) Soviet architecture, never among the most highly regarded.

The New Chernobyls, are not victims of a nuclear holocaust. Though they are every bit man-made disasters.

All across America, college campuses have become Chernobyl.

During the month of January, the college at which I work, offers a limited selection of three-week courses. With few choices coupled with financial hardships imposed by a lack of financial aid options, few students register.

That expression about shooting off a canon without fear of incurring injury: it was invented here.

Ditto for most college campuses during the summer.

Great, often expansive, physical plants sit idle amid a population barely more than ten percent of what it is during Fall and Spring semesters.

What’s really peculiar about all of this is the disconnect between what is said and what is done.

College campuses nationwide have made it their mission to encourage closer, mentoring and coaching relationships between faculty and staff the students “attending” the college.

Laudable goals, to be sure. Run ‘em up the flagpole and everyone salutes.

But the words don’t match the actions.

Not-for-profit colleges and for-profit colleges, state schools and private institutions have all jumped on the Online Education bandwagon.

Though today treated as an innovative novelty, in fact this is a conceit. Online education has roots at least as far back as the turn of the century – the last century. Back when the 19th blended into the 20th century, it was called correspondence school.

So, today the banners and the bumper stickers proclaim the desire to get ever closer to the students. And the actions drive them farther and farther away.

My own campus’ architectural style, though lacking the gray concrete of Pripyat’s buildings, is named “Brutalism.” It looks pretty much the way it sounds. Austere and angular, it is a Bauhaus style popular in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Of course at the Bauhaus, students had two mentors: a craft master and an artistic master. Each physically worked next to the student.

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