By Harrison Long
College is a time of new experiences and changes. You’ve left home to begin writing the first chapter of your adult life, and things couldn’t be better. You can be whoever you want to be, study whatever you’re interested in, and you will, no doubt, meet plenty of new people, all the while preparing yourself for life on your own; sounds pretty good, right?
While college is no doubt inclined to bring about many moral and attitudinal changes, most of which are viewed wholly as positive, this liberation can also be very threatening to the young impressionable mind. Professors often have egos beyond measurable capacity, and know that your naïve little brain will believe anything they say, because, “Hey, why wouldn’t you?” They probably spent more time in the same seat you’re in now than you’ve been walking the Earth- so, they should know what they’re talking about, right?
Since I was a young child, I’ve taken a vast interest in history- I’ve read books, researched certain topics, gone to museums, watched documentaries, even acted out in my backyard what I felt like my favorite historical figures were sure to be like- all in the name of enjoying history.
Imagine the excitement I felt when I entered History 1301 my first day of college. Finally, I had a chance to dive in-depth to pretty much the only subject that I didn’t absolutely loathe, and I knew I was sure to learn loads of new stuff along the way.
However, I found my experience to be quite contrary to my happy-go-lucky expectations. My first day of class went something like this:
(Students shuffle to their seats as tension fills the air- no one knows to expect while they extract their laptops and notepads. A young man, almost young enough to be a student, takes to the front of the room. For the sake of the story- we’ll call him Dr. Wood).
“Hello class,” he spoke confidently as he wrote his name on the board. “We’ll get to the syllabus in a moment, but for the time being, I would just like to get to know each of you better. We’ll be spending a lot of time together over these next few months, and I’d like to know who I have present in my class.”
No one spoke. Puzzled glances were exchanged among those who weren’t already absorbed into Facebook.
“No one? That’s fine, I’ll start.” He folded his arms, and tilted his head back so that his nose was pointed into the air as he began pacing around the front of the room.
“My name is Dr. Phillip Wood, I’m thirty-two years old, and this is my first year teaching here. I’ve taught two years prior at [insert nearby University]; I graduated from [Prestigious Ivy League college] in 2009.” He paused to glance around the room for any impressed looks- he had a Ph.D., after all.
“I ask that you call me Dr. Wood because, although I am only perhaps a few years older than some of you, I didn’t spend the first fourteen years of my adult life in school for nothing. So, I’ll simply ask that you address me as such.”
He went on to explain that he originally resided from the Midwest, where he grew up a minister’s son, which, from subtle hints, one could acquire that he resented. He explained why he chose History, and went on to say that he was looking forward to getting to know us all.
“Now, before anyone else decides to go, lets have a little fun. I’m going to say a name, and if you know who I’m talking about, raise your hand, alright?”
Nods went around the room.
“John D. Rockefeller.”
I, along with maybe a five others in the classroom, raised our hands.
“Really, only that many of you?” He seemed astonished.
“Well, no matter.” He digressed. “Those who answered, would you mind standing up?”
Although somewhat nervous, we obliged him.
“I would like for two of you to briefly describe what you know about Mr. Rockefeller.” He pointed to another boy. “You first.”
“I know that Rockefeller Plaza in New York was named after him.” The boy said before quickly sitting down. There were some chuckles around the room
“Very good. And you?” He turned his attention to me.
“He revolutionized the oil industry, founded the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University, and was pretty much the first major philanthropist.” Looking back- I realize that my answer was nothing short of cookie-cutter and sounded like it was off of Wikipedia, but that was all I could think of at the time.
Dr. Wood pursed his lips and folded his arms- apparently I had taken the bait.
“Very good. The rest of you can sit down.” He turned around, and began to write on the board.
“For those of you who don’t know, John D. Rockefeller was the richest person in history. He was worth a billion dollars by the early twentieth century.” He wheeled around, revealing the word “Robber Baron” on the board.
“When I asked you in December before your exam what you think- nay, what you know, of John D. Rockefeller- this is what I hope you will say.” He pointed to the board.
We spent the next twenty minutes of class going over the injustice and mistreatment of workers that Mr. Rockefeller exhibited with his cohorts Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Ford, and Mr. Morgan, and why they were essentially the embodiment of everything wrong with today’s society under the free market.
Absolutely stunned and nearly terrified of this rant, I stayed quiet and endured. This type of treatment towards focal members of the United States’ upbringing out of infancy and into the Super Power it currently is continued the entire first semester of my college career. After coming home during the holidays, I found that many of my High School friends had similar experiences across a wide variety of subjects- Philosophy, Political Science, Biology, English- the list goes on!
Living in the Piney Woods of Eastern Texas, one might see why I was caught off guard at this retelling of History- where the story of success is overshadowed with a separate lesson of injustice, often unfairly at times. In comparison, my experience was slightly less radical than many of my friends who attended University at larger colleges in more integrated cities, but this trend should, nonetheless, be alarming.
It has quickly become evident that many cynical, fickle people out there- many of whom are teaching the adults of tomorrow don’t wish for you to have heroes. They don’t want you to love the country you’re in or look up to those in power. They feel that everyone who isn’t perfect (except themselves and their ilk) should be chastised because they might’ve made a few blunders along the way. Now, I’m certainly not preaching that those who have done wrong shouldn’t be punished for it, on the contrary- I am simply making the point that not everyone who has ever had a success story is inherently evil or greedy. Not all southerners are inherently racist, gap-toothed, gun-grabbing, Bible-thumping morons, just as not all Northerners are baby-killing, Godless, pot-smoking, hippy’s either- there is common ground in everything and it is up to YOU as an individual to find it- no one person is going to give you the whole story.
With all that being said, I’ll end it with this:
-Check your facts!
-Have reliable sources!
-Take down some revisionists!
-Tell others about Turning Point!