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High school to college. Does immaturity uphold?

November 10, 2010
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Throughout my own day-to-day experiences, I’ve seen Kant’s theory regarding Enlightenment uphold.  However, I have only seen it uphold in certain situations.  Kant claims enlightenment is when man gets rid of his “self-imposed immaturity”.  He goes on to discuss why many people have the inability to emerge from this immaturity.  He says if people are told what to do (via guardians), thus being dependent on others, then there’s no need to exert themselves.  In relating Kant’s words and theories to modern times, there is a large distinction to be made regarding high school and college. The way of life of a high school student seems to enforce Kant’s ideas about enlightenment.  However, the life of a college student seems to pose interesting questions regarding Kant’s words.

High school life has, unfortunately, inhibited students from becoming independent. This lack of independence has led students to rely on others to make decisions for them.  It has led to a buildup up student immaturity, which is according to Kant the failure to use one’s own abilities without outside help.  In high school, there are rules, bells, announcements, and an abundance of authority figures telling students what to do.  Kant argues that by the very nature of constantly being told what to do, people become used to being told what to do and are incapable of acting on their own without this outside help.  It seems as if a high school student’s only job is to perform on tests and participate as everything else is done for them.  Bells signal the end of class and that its time to leave, announcements inform the student body what is going on, and such authority figures as hall monitors prevent students from acting mischievous in the hallways.  This way of life has definitely led student’s to consider being told what to do apart of their nature, thus remaining incapable of making their own decisions.

College life as well seems to heighten Kant’s views yet simultaneously provokes questions regarding his words.  When making the transition from high school to college there are undoubtedly many changes going to take place.  For example, one becomes completely independent.  There is no one telling you to stay in class for the whole time, no one informing you of upcoming activities or events, and no one keeping you in line.  You become the boss of yourself in college, therefore having no choice but exert yourself.  If in the past one has been immature, then when entering college does one stay this way?  You are forced to become your own boss, but how efficient will you be at this new task? There is so say whether you will be able to actually make good decisions on your own.  Are you as a student still going to rely on others to do things for you?  Will that immaturity you attained from high school still be apparent? How does one make a successful transition?

Kant’s discussion regarding enlightenment seems to uphold to both high school and college life, however, there are several factors that he did not hit on.  Is enlightenment only inhibited when one has guardians physically around him? Does immaturity fade if not physically around people telling one what to do? Does one’s previous immaturity stay with one throughout life?

10 Comments
  1. jwalsky24 permalink
    November 10, 2010 9:38 PM

    You pose an interesting set of questions here. I feel like immaturity, strictly within the context of a classroom, would be the lack of courage to state your own opinions or to disagree with others, especially the teacher. I have noticed that as I have transitioned to college, I realized I rarely questioned my teachers’ opinions in high school, because as you said, everything as done for me. If the teacher could explain an issue in a way that made sense, I didn’t question it, which according to Kant made me immature. But now that I am “independent,” I question my instructor’s arguments all the time (which occasionally gets me into trouble, but hey, I feel “enlightened” when it happens). And in regard to whether or not immaturity fades when no one is physically there to pressure you, I would bet we’ve all been sitting in our dorms at one point worried about what our parents would say if we did bad on the assignment we’re working on. Enlightenment, in this case, would depend on whether or not we allow those parental pressures to affect us.

  2. Jessie Altman permalink
    November 10, 2010 9:41 PM

    In response to one of your questions at the end, I think that enlightenment can be inhibited regardless of whether or not someone has guardians around them. Yes, guardians can inhibit enlightenment but they can also prepare a person for college and to be a mature responsible person (get rid of “self-imposed immaturity”). Kant says it it “self-imposed maturity” so I think that it is up to each individual to no longer rely on others and grow out of their immature stage of life. An individual can rely on their guardians but even when parents are not around an individual can rely on friends. For example, if someone was in a close knit group of friends with a “leader” it would be just as impossible, if not more so, to get rid of their immaturity and become enlightened then it would be if they were still living at home. Therefore, I think that it is up to the individual to grow up and become self-reliant and, as a result, enlightened.

  3. mjlewan permalink
    November 10, 2010 9:56 PM

    The simple answer to the question of whether or not the immaturity from high school will carry over is yes, of course it will. That is not to say that we, as young college students, will never become, in Kant’s terms, “enlightened”; it’s the kind of thing that takes time and experience to overcome. If you were to ask any senior at U of M they would tell you that becoming a successful student is not something that happens overnight. We didn’t just get to college and automatically become completely independent thinkers. Slowly but surely we will start to break away from the shackles that kept us in line as kids in high school and develop into mature and enlightened adults. Kant doesn’t expect people to suddenly become enlightened at the snap of his fingers, he expects the process to occur naturally over time. In response to another one of your questions regarding the physical proximity one has to those who have inhibited their enlightenment in the past, I would argue that actual space between doesn’t matter as much as metaphorical space. We have all heard of people telling their parents that they “need space”, but this can be a problem for a student going to school living at home or a student living on the other side of the country. Parents who continuously try to stay meticulously involved in their kids lives after they have started college are the ones who inhibit enlightenment whether thy are down the hall or a 12 hour drive away. So it really will depend on how much someone allows themselves to be inhibited, in these days of cell phones and e-mail parents can be closer than ever before. It is up to the student to eliminate the fear of failure that Kant cites as one of the main reasons for immaturity and to force his parents to lose that same fear. High school may have turned us all into to the morons that Kant said we were but nothing, not even one’s own stupidity, is insurmountable.

  4. thacarter4 permalink
    November 10, 2010 11:45 PM

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, especially the part about sheltering in high school being something that Kant wouldn’t agree with and that college is a lot more like what he would advocate. The freedom to make one’s own decisions and to learn from one’s mistakes seems to be central to Kants idea of enlightenment, but when we consider college life how much of it really seems enlightened? True people are making their own decisions and living on their own but most people are still being supported by their parents so they aren’t totally independent. Also, part of maturity is self control and many college students, myself included, seem to lose that control from time to time, probably more than the average working adult. So college may not be the best example of a Kant approved society, even if high school is the opposite of what he would advocate.

  5. Koral Skeen permalink
    November 13, 2010 4:37 PM

    As much as I agree with you about the possibility of immaturity following students to college, that statement is a bit broad. Although Kant would disagree with the sheltering that is common for high school students, I think there is another aspect that has to be taken into account. Is there a certain amount of maturity that follows students to college? Not every one’s parents help them make choices or support them financially or help them find opportunities in high school. So I think that students who are not completely aided through high school carry a maturity to college and know how to make decisions.

    Also, the help from teacher, parents, bells, and school news is a guide setting kids up so they are able to be enlightened in the near future and leave their immaturity behind.

  6. Lorig Stepanian permalink
    November 15, 2010 4:36 PM

    This is a very interesting and pertinent topic. I believe the transition a student makes between the high school and college levels is quite drastic, almost forcing a student to become more mature in some way or another. In response to some of your questions, I do not think that enlightenment is only inhibited when one has guardians physically around him or her. I believe that immaturity spurs from ones own personal decisions and actions. To a certain extent, all human beings must encounter a stage of immaturity where they are told what to do, or where they must try and mimic examples of those around them. In order to succeed, one must mature enough to make their own decisions and this requires guidance and learning. Although a person many seek the advice and guidance of authority figures throughout their young life, how they apply their learning dictates their maturity level. In addition, just because one follows orders does not mean that they are immature, their reasoning behind their obedience determines their level of maturity. If a high school student believes that the most effective way to learn information in order to make their own decisions in the future, is through an orderly fashion implemented by the school system, are they really immature?

    I do not think that a person’s immaturity fades when their guardians are not around to tell them what to do. Furthermore, I do think that one’s previous immaturity stays with them throughout their life. I believe immaturity comes from ignorance or the lack of desire to be informed. When one simply does not care to learn in order to make their own decisions, they will constantly need the guidance of others solely to stay in a mediocre existence. It is ones desire to make their own decisions and increase their knowledge that develops them enough to become a successful and mature individual. With this achievement and knowledge, one will be able to prosper and give guidance to those who care to do the same.

  7. November 15, 2010 7:52 PM

    I understand what you are saying and I agree, high school is a lot of rules and people telling you what to do. The continuous bells, reminders and announcements try to ingrain everything into your head. However, I think that students need this in order to achieve Kant’s enlightenment because although you may take it for granted, the skills used to write this blog have been taught to you throughout all those years of school. It is true that people may have been on your back, hounding you about assignments, but the whole time they were also teaching you to think. Had you not experienced the mononity of high school and its restrictions, chances are good that you would not have been able to develop your own thought. I think any true mature individual does develop their own thoughts, but those thoughts are informed by past experiences and the help of many people who may have “restricted” you along the way. So, in my mind high school is not the problem, it’s just part of the journey.

    • ryridenour permalink
      November 16, 2010 1:47 AM

      I agree with what jzunamon is saying. There seems to be quite a bit of hate for high school in the comments on this post, with the assumption being that high school stifles individuals and encourages students to dumbly accept the information they are spoon-fed. But I feel this logic is falsely applying the strict, sheltered social environment of some high schools to the intellectual aspects of the classes we all had to live through.

      In high school, I wasn’t allowed to dress a certain way, put anything deemed “inappropriate” into the school newspaper or refuse to do assignments. But at least for me, the one thing that never felt restricted was my ability to think for myself. The vast majority of my teachers encouraged me to figure things out on my own and think critically about the sources of the information I was absorbing. There was never a “right” answer to an opinion-based essay prompt or question. And isn’t the whole point of homework to make you mentally self-sufficient?

      Of course it’s hard to pin all high schools under the same labels, but I feel that Kant wouldn’t have had a problem with the restrictions placed on us in that time span, especially considering how immature we all were. More importantly, you could argue our ability to think and reason on our own were being developed rather than discouraged by our teachers.

  8. jbrasspolsci permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:17 AM

    Throughout high school, you are living under your parent’s rules as they follow every step you make and every action you commit. Also, you are told what to do, when to do it, and how to do whatever you are asked properly. “Go wash the dishes right after dinner, then do your laundry” a parent might say. Or, “No more video games until all of your homework is done” (and in fact the Xbox360 is out of your room before you know it). This is significant because most likely, if it weren’t for your parents the more immature choice would be chosen such as picking video games over doing homework, or leaving the dishes in the dishwasher and not cleaning them. Therefore, when Kant says people do not need to exert themselves when they are told what to do is true but only to some extent.
    Every kid is different as to where their priorities lie and their level of immaturity so to say. Sometimes the kids who pick the video games over homework realize one night they need to actually do work, so they briefly go though a period of enlightenment. The individual made this decision with no other influence or guidance. Overall though, high school students do rely on others and are less independent. For example, such as bells signaling the beginning and ending of classes, rules to follow, and having to listen to teachers and higher officials who stand more ground than you do. Even though in an environment where you are more or less forced to be dependent, there are ways to act independent which provoke the questions regarding Kant’s words.
    The transition to college: now you are out of your parent’s house, under a new roof on your own. However, if one is iving in the dorms you’re “guided” by the RA, or if in an apartment building by the Land Lord. There is not anyone really telling you what to do, but definitely there is someone in place keeping you in line. The fact you know the RA will force upon punishment if drinking takes place in the residence halls helps enforce people not to drink. If there were no rules in place, their immaturity would show because being under twenty one does not keep students from drinking. Therefore, the thought of having an RA may keep students from drinking than the actual law itself. Therefore, this is just one example where students are indeed by themselves and independent from the ones who have been dictating their lives the past 18 years. However, there still exists someone or something that holds one’s immaturity together.
    Part of going to college is to learn how to live on your own, make the right decisions, and be responsible. That means, if you have two exams and a paper due on Monday, you may not be able to go out for a weekend. Not choosing to go out would be a mature decision; however going out would be an immature decision. When you fail both exams and your paper, you will learn the hard way of being immature. This is the main difference without your parents there; your parents keep you from learning this hard way. They love you and do not want to see this happen. When they are not with you in college though forcing you to study, there is nothing they can do. One makes a successful transition when using judgment appropriately and making good decisions. However, high school and college are also here for one to learn from his or her mistakes, and thus become enlightened without the presence of guardians physically around. In sum, immaturity sometimes sticks with people on rare occasions throughout life and sometimes it doesn’t. If an individual is enlightened and grows up, they will indeed have a better foundation and thus surpass the ones who are immature.

  9. Andrew Berman permalink
    November 17, 2010 12:36 AM

    I think you bring up a very interesting point. College is supposed to be the transition into adulthood. But does that mean its the transition between immaturity to maturity? I believe that in order to become mature and reach enlightenment, you have to want it. Most people who choose to go to college want to become independent and learn how to become an adult. They have learned from the authority figures in high school, how to act when they are on their own. As you say they become the boss. But maturity doesn’t just come from being independent. It also is challenging ideas and questioning what people ‘spoon-feed’ you. Someone could be completely independent in college, but believe everything that their teacher teaches them and everything that they see and hear on television. That is why college is a transition period. People are learning how to be independent and not conformists at the same time.

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