I Made a New Word XLIV

College-itis: (n.)

A mental illness in which a patient is simply unable to accept a situation in which another thinking person possesses a commensurately durable command of the relevant facts, and has pursued some valid and competent thinking process to arrive at different ideas regarding what it all means or what should be done. Persons suffering from this disease leap instantly to the conclusion that if you disagree, you have to be stupid.

It is difficult for laymen to understand College-itis without first fleshing out all of the benefits involved in what the typical college kid is missing, which is life experience. Among the benefits of experience, is the encounter with other persons who have had experiences — therefore, necessarily, encounters with persons who have had disparate experiences. Learning is a non-instinctive behavioral change, so as intelligent people experience things, they must necessarily alter their behavior as they learn. Empirically observed fact, plus studied fact, plus anecdotal knowledge equals inferences; anecdotal knowledge plus inferences equal planned-response. This loop feeds into a person’s behavior: response, minus stimulus, equals behavior.

Slacker UThe other thing that’s important to note here is that when we apply anecdotes from our own experience to the thought processes that form our behavior, we are indulging in what in the higher-education environment is referred to as “prejudice”; this is, of course, actively discouraged there. There is much complaint now that college campuses are maintained as diverse environments only in terms of skin color, not in terms of ideological leanings. But the truth is that it isn’t really possible for a college campus to lean in several different ideological directions, nor in several directions on any discussed question or issue, when participants are dissuaded from relying on any-and-all previously cherished values or previously experienced events. Without those, there can only be — what you learned in prerequisite coursework, what you have been told here this semester, and what you are experiencing today. The compliant but diligent student will not allow anything else to affect the outcome.

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So the College-itis patient suffers from something worse than a lack of experience. He ends up suffering from an extreme lack of appreciation for its very significance (other than, of course, his own experience taking the class which is all-important). The sufferer has been programmed to accept the concept of negative knowledge: Just as a person’s opinion might be dismissed as ignorant if it is formed prematurely, with a scarcity of observed fact or opinion to back it up — and then that person could be labeled “stupid” and ejected from subsequent discussions as well — the same goes for a person who has managed to gain command of an uncontrolled abundance of knowledge, or knowledge outside the body of knowledge that is approved by the authorities — knowledge outside the syllabus. That person is to be labeled exactly the same way the ignorant person is to be labeled, with no recognized necessity for distinguishing between the two, now or forevermore.

And so in its advanced stages, College-itis becomes a predilection, one operating at a level somewhere beneath complete consciousness, for mistaking ignorance for education and vice-versa. Very much the same thing is done with the unrelated concept of tolerance. The other person’s opinion is compared to what is sanctified; from the opinion, a conclusion is reached about his command of the facts or lack thereof; from that, a conclusion is reached about his level of intellect. After that, all three of these are sort of smooshed together. From that, a boolean result is formed which is either “good” or “bad”; suitable for being carried around in the brain of, not quite so much an accomplished and educated graduate of higher learning, but a mentally impaired infant marsupial.

Cross posted at House of Eratosthenes and Washington Rebel.

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