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was struck recently by an article in The Wall Street Journal
entitled "Colleges Struggle to Keep a Male-Female Balance,"
which featured Oberlin as a liberal arts college facing the
"problem" of a student body that is 59 percent female. Aside
from the obvious question of whether anyone fretted about
all this when the majority of college students were men (they
did not), the discussion raised other issues of concern. According
to the article, Oberlin's admissions staff is faced with the
challenge of "how to keep men interested in the school." Short
of hanging a "Men Wanted" sign (which, a high school guidance
counselor claimed, would result in a "backlash from women's
groups"), the school revised a science brochure that "seemed
too feminine;" gives men "a second look" in borderline admissions
cases; and sets an enrollment goal of no more than 60 percent
women. Boys, it seems, must be given a little extra help because
they "develop more slowly than girls and may lack the high
grades and SAT scores" that apparently give girls an edge.
As an educator, a parent, and a newspaper reader, I agree
that there is a problem with boys in our society and our schools.
But I doubt that the solution lies in a more aggressive affirmative
action program for white boys at the nation's academically
excellent liberal arts colleges. Implicit in the article was
a problem similar to that faced by Swarthmore College in its
decision to end its football program: admitting larger numbers
of men (or football players) would lower academic and social
standards in a way that would change the character of the
college. As a professor of women's studies at a large, football-
and fraternity-dominated state school who teaches students
about the negative social impact of particular male-dominated
settings, among other things, I suggest that schools like
Oberlin consider closely the cost of admitting more men as
such. When people, including high school students looking
at colleges, ask me to describe my experiences as a feminist
at Oberlin, I often note that the men I met there were, and
still are, the gentlest and most feminist I've known. Those
of us who loved Oberlin's coeducational culture, where men
did not seem threatened or embarrassed by the high-powered
intellectual women around them, hope that Oberlin will take
care in instituting affirmative action for men and continue
to accept those men and women who wish to share Oberlin's
traditions of artistic expression, political involvement,
academic achievement, and just being different.
NORMAN CARE EXPERIENCE
rare occasions, when I was living in Asia House in my first year
of college, house council meetings would transpire into interesting
discussions on the politics of culture. One such occasion introduced
me to Jonathan Rackoff, a junior and professor Norman Care's teaching
assistant. That conversation brought me into a close relationship
with Jonathan and Mr. Care. Our discussion on politics and states,
nationalism and fanaticism, dissolved into that perfect solution
for Jonathan: a class with Mr. Care. I took "Philosophy and Values,"
an introductory level course, with Mr. Care the following semester.
And my whole experience at Oberlin was transformed in that decision.
In my three years at Oberlin I took all five of my philosophy
classes with Mr. Care, whose belief in and love for his subject
drove my own passion.
I will not forget the first day I walked into his class. Jonathan
was sitting in as the TA, and after class he encouraged me to
introduce myself to Mr. Care. But for the first couple of weeks
I remained terrified of my professor. He would walk in the classroom,
jot down his agenda for that class on the blackboard, and delve
into Descartes and Hume, Kantian and Utilitarian philosophies
with clarity and well-studied detail.
"Well, go introduce yourself to him," Jonathan would insist after
"What shall I say to him? Hello, I'm Sonya and I'm in your philosophy
Jonathan's confidence finally assured me, and I went trembling
into Mr. Care's office one day after class and introduced myself.
Contrary to my every expectation our conversation was light and
relaxing, and he made me feel welcome. In the following class
My visits to Mr. Care's office increased in semesters to come. Discussions
in class became food for thought long after the clock had sent us
all out. I wound up with questions and ideas that could not be covered
within class. In my last semester I took two classes with him. I
was seeing Mr. Care five times a week, and in that last semester,
when I was conscious of how excellent an opportunity I had received,
these classes had special significance.
If I were to find an analogy for Mr. Care's teaching, I would say
that every class was like a symphony. When a particular point proved
or determined an issue, his voice would suddenly come to life and
his operatic solo would mesmerize the class. My greatest regret
by May 1998 was that I could no longer be a participant in his classes.
I cannot help feeling that Oberlin will be a little lost without
his classes in its course book. He has been a faithful member of
Oberlin's faculty for 36 years, and it was my good fortune to be
a part of the Care experience.
letters in past issues alluded to Charles G. Finney and suggested
that the current Oberlin represents a repudiation of Finney's legacy.
The ethos of the current Oberlin, however, springs inevitably from
Finney's teachings concerning the capabilities of the human will.
Finney is the father of modern evangelistic technique and modern
Pelagian apostasy, which share and act upon the assumption that
man has the natural moral ability to make proper moral choices.
An excellent synopsis of Finney's teaching on free will is in the
chapter on Finney in Willing to Believe--The Controversy Over Free
Will by R.C. Sproul. The illusion shared by fundamentalists and
secularists that humans have the innate ability to make appropriate
moral choices is the antithesis of Biblical teaching. The great
theologians of the church and the confessions of the Protestant
Reformation have proclaimed the reality that natural man is in bondage
to sin, and that only through God's free, unmerited grace can man
be delivered from this bondage.
E. Freeman '71
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