When Did College Turn So Crue
The op-ed I chose to analyze and argue is Frank Bruni's "When Did College Turn So Cruel" in which he states reasons why he believes college has become not a place to further your education because of a job you seek, but because it is so heavily pushed onto the youth and is deemed as mandatory. He uses the elements of arguments including pathos, logos, and ethos in a way to help his argument get across to the audience. Which I believe is intended for students, parents, and college graduates. This opinion editorial takes a great stance on education, but it is organized chaotically and does not go into great depth on any one topic, such that it hinders the reader’s connection and empathy towards the individualized situations and the overall grand scale problem at hand.
Frank Bruni went to the Loomis Chaffee School, an independent boarding college preparatory school in Windsor, Connecticut, followed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Where he first started his writing career by writing for his school paper The Daily Tar Heel. Bruni later worked for The New York Times where he moved through many positions which has ultimately led him to his current job title as an opinion editorial columnist, whose columns appear twice weekly. His piece titled "When Did College Turn So Cruel" was written a couple of months after the celebrity college admission scandal. Which was a nationwide issue where famous celebrities would bribe schools to let their underperforming kids into a well-known college of their choice. This event most likely inspired Bruni to write about the issues many people face with college. Including the cost of tuition and the struggle of acceptance.
In Frank Bruni's article "When Did College Turn So Cruel", Bruni immediately opens with a mention to Paul Tough's new book, unnamed, about "broken promises of higher education"(Tough 2019). The book includes anecdotes of students from different backgrounds including, economical, racial, and educational. With each student having a distinct and contrasting obstacle toward their path to higher education. Bruni uses ethos as Tough is a known New York Times editor who writes extensively about topics such as education and poverty. The use of ethos makes sense in this context because he seems to be well educated about the topic of higher education as well as economic issues which can be an important aspect of attaining the stated higher education many American youths seek.
Bruni also speaks on the original intent of college which is a rite of passage, greater economic security, and the good old American dream. However, he states that for many student's colleges have turned into a "letdown, betrayal or taunt,"(Bruni 2019). He quotes Tough in stating that "It means when young people make their decisions today about college, they often are motivated less by hope and more by fear,” (Tough 2019). Often the fear of economical failure, fear of letting down parents, and fear of no other option but college. In this context, Bruni uses pathos to reach the hearts of Americans who have already attained a college diploma because of the brighter future they were promised. However, now of days, students are getting the education for the reasons stated above. Because of the current job market and the profuse amount of people acquiring higher education Bruni states that "college is the new high school," (Bruni 2019) implying that it is considered mandatory for most jobs in the current job market. Which gives young adults bleak hope of getting the job they aspire if they decide not to or are unable to attend college.
Another topic Bruni briefly touches on is a brand obsession. He introduces a story about a girl named Clara who wishes to attend Middlebury. However, her parents allegedly "bully" her into passing her first choice for Yale, a more prestigious higher reputation and more exclusive university. Earlier in the texts, he brings up a girl named Shannen, a girl from a poor family in the Bronx. It is stated that her hard work and determination has led her to be underweight and indefinitely exhausted (Bruni 2019). The pathos in this section of his op-ed really hit home for many students due to the societal and family pressures they feel to pursue a degree they have no interest in just for the financial benefits it comes with.
There is so much weight put on the importance of college that some students end up believing that there "worth as a person hangs in the balance," (Bruni 2019) of getting into a worthwhile college. Bruni additionally brings up the facts that "more and more college students report and seek help for mental health issues," (Bruni 2019). There are statistics stated that not only anxiety has risen from 18.5% to 27.8% but also that depression has increased from 11.6% to 20.2% in the past decade. So not only does college no longer promise job security for graduates, but it also poses a higher risk for mental health issues in their students. Bruni's use of logos here is important in showing the legitimate estimate of students with mental health problems and that is a growing issue that should be addressed. It would be interesting to know how many of these students end up finding the help and resources needed, and if the college allows access to said resources.
Even after concurring the struggle of college admission they are now faced with the obstacle of tuition. Which you can say is easy to solve with student loans. However, the Federal Reserve notes that "there are more than 44 million borrowers who owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt." Because of this, many students are pushed to community colleges or for-profit institutions. It is vaguely brushed upon that for-profit institutions often promised a more flexibility including a degree at your own pace and online courses. They often target low-class citizens and people of color. These for-profit organizations also have a higher rate of student debt and lower graduation rates than public and private institutions of the same level. By using logos to confirm his opinion it is undoubtedly strategic in getting the audience to feel sympathy and annoyance at the current situation of the education system. I do feel like he could have gone more in-depth in his research and included more statistics to back up his opinions about for-profit colleges and other ways students struggle financially such as the cost for textbooks, dining, housing, etc.
Overall Frank Bruni brings up a great topic about the problems in our current education system. Which not only includes the physical education aspect of schools, but also the associating problems that come with higher education, such as; mental health problems, financial instability, societal pressure, etc. Many aspects of society and home life impact a student in their decision to go to college and which one they will attend and what they will study. This makes the student feel powerless and like they are making a life-changing decision that is completely out of there control. While Bruni makes many good points centering around these topics he often jumps around from topic to topic with no real organization and does not dive too deep into any one concern. This often leaves the reader wanting to know more which can be a good thing, but it can also leave the reader desiring more from what they just read. However, this was a very accessible piece of writing that many people can read and comprehend perhaps he did not want any confusion with his point he was trying to make by jam-packing it full of information. Overall, this was a great opinion-editorial with lots of information including personal anecdotes from students and their own personal struggles they have dealt with.