Coming of Age in New Jersey by Michael Moffatt:
One learns real education in the college of self-education, where one’s mind is one’s Principal; one’s initiative, one’s Professors. One’s hard work, one’s tutors! It provides you the correct decision making power. It makes you act. You are able to start a thing; you are also able to finish that thing and achieve your goal. The real education tells you, there is no victory or defeat in life –there is only permanent effort. What are theory text-books after all? They are the storehouse of experiences.
True college education must stand the test of its practical application. According to Moffatt it should provide awareness, proper direction and destination to the student, in life. As a new and revealing perspective on the much-studied American college student, the observations contained in the book are highly authentic and path-breaking!
Breaking through the facade of higher learning and discovering the actuality of college life (pertaining to the students, professors, and the institution as a whole).
The book describes the plight of the American college student, who carries encyclopedia within his brain. He goes on accumulating knowledge, and doesn’t know much about its application—meaning thereby failure to perform to right things at the right time. Students don’t enter college just to study the prescribed textbooks relating to their syllabus—they are spending the very precious part, of the formative years of their life in the portals of college. Every student has the problem, peculiar to his circumstances and the level of his progression in life.
They learn what is individualism, what is friendship, the community feelings, color and race, ethnic problems, intellectual achievements, work and play and above all sex and gender related problems. The student is exposed to new situations all through his years in the college.
The author is a faculty member in the Anthropology department at Rutgers University.
He did his college studies twice. The objectives of his two attempts were different. On the first occasion, perhaps it was pure study—own career-oriented approach. At the second attempt, he was studying the students. Not what they study, but how they study, what they study! The old-guard was a fresher again, as a very senior student. He lived in the dorm, with the students. Could there by ay better method, for gathering authentic notes for his intended study? This he did, 20 years after his graduation.
Moffatt realized that the young college student was a growing human plant. In the heart, he revolted against the prevailing educational system in America, severed from Nature and stifling all individuality. Moffatt had practical ideals to mold the education system. He advocated for new types of training and fearless experiments.
Educational innovations for the college students need to become more numerous and more courageous, he advocated. When his second term as a student was over, Moffatt, offered his preliminary results for further scrutiny and comments by the students. The feedback obtained from the undergraduates, provided valuable data to refine his initial observations. He got more information from their perspective, and unique interpretations, that provided more creditability to the book. The book, in a way is jointly authored by the Professor and the students.
The student’s actions, feelings, and thoughts about college (them giving more importance to the social world than the academic);
Moffatt( as a student for the second time) makes an interesting observation, how the various officials, employees, professors etc. only knew the partial truth about the functioning of the college, not the whole truth. He writes, “The College was a very complicated place, made more complicated by its inclusion in a bigger and even more confusing university. Very few administrators understood all of it–even its formal organization—let alone how it actually worked.
Most campus adults did not even try; they simply did their best to grasp those small parts of the college and the university that they needed to understand.”(Moffat, 1989, p. xv (preface) “I no longer understood my students”’ says Prof. Moffatt. There was no feeling of solidarity and responsibility. Exercise of self-reliance and individuality was not encouraged. Stern regard for duty, action without motivated desires, sacrifice and self-respect as well respect for others, were absent. The student was willing to be influenced by the impact of materialistic civilization totally, and the internet revolution did leave deep impact on him. Academic dignity and the great purpose of nobility of human life were sadly lacking.
The distant and uncommunicative relationship between the students and professors and how that plays a part in the student’s actions and beliefs in/about college (affects the development of the students.)
The study revealed many interesting factors. It brought to light the limited knowledge the students had about the structure/hierarchy of the teaching staff and their duties and responsibilities. The students never knew how Professors spent their time after the actual study hours, and about their research, thinking and the department politics. He writes, “Most students were not sure of the relation between the two most immediate authorities in their lives, the dean of students and the dean of Rutgers College.
And very few of them could name any of the higher-level university officials between these two deans at the bottom of the administration and the president of Rutgers University at the top.”(Moffat, 1989, p.25) As for the Professors, they were not aware of what the students need to do every semester—how to budget their time against the time and space demands.
What is the true purpose of education? Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel-prize winning poet from India puts it beautifully:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the word has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,
Where words come from the depth of truth,
……into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!—education must lead
an individual, a student to such height level of evolution.
Moffatt, Michael: Book: Coming of Age in New Jersey.
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (March 1, 1989)