Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ghost College

There is a minuscule market for what Antioch sells for a tuition, room and board of $35,221 — repressive liberalism unleavened by learning. -- George Will

George Will may be right, or he may be wrong. One thing is certain. Antioch College isn't selling anything anymore. The college closed its doors in June, 2008. The picturesque campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, an hour northeast of Cincinnati, is crumbling, the weeds poking through the cracked walkways. Squirrels and birds are the only campus denizens. The only students you will find passing through the hallowed halls are ghosts.

Perhaps it's simply a sign of the times. When Antioch was at its height -- the late '60s and early '70s -- the Vietnam War was raging, the Civil Rights movement was still a relatively novel notion, and Antioch was at the forefront of liberal America. They didn't hand out grades at Antioch. They handed out narratives, paragraphs and pages of nouns and verbs in which students were evaluated in actual prose. But employers don't really care about letters other than A through C. And even the hippies want jobs these days, and livin' off the land, man, doesn't appear to be quite the romantic adventure it once seemed.

Kate and I wandered through Yellow Springs on Friday. The town still retains a bit of its hippie history. There is Alternative Everything in Yellow Springs: alternative food, alternative spirituality, alternative medicine; all marketed in deceptively capitalist ways. Even the mailman had dreadlocks. But the college was a sad and sober reminder of what can happen when the old ideals are outstripped by reality. At the pond beside the main campus building, pictured above in better days, a couple small kids were catching frogs. They were the only inhabitants, human or reptilian, that we saw. Antioch is a ghost college. It made plenty of mistakes along the way. I wish it was still around to prick the consciences and bug the hell out of people like George Will.

2 comments:

Julana said...

I like George Will because of how he writes about his son Jon, who "has some things most men would like to have—season tickets for Nationals and Orioles baseball, Redskins football, Capitals hockey and Georgetown University basketball. He gets to and from games (and to his work three days a week for the Nationals at RFK Stadium) by himself, taking public transportation to and from his apartment."
Jon has Down syndrome, and I appreciate George for championing his son.

We've visited Antioch twice in the past few years. It seems like a place stuck in a time warp without a lawn mower, where people have knee-jerk political reactions without much reflection. But some good food and ambience there.

Brian DeWagner said...

I wonder if the "Don't Stop Institute" is still rollimg at Antioch...some die hard profs and students studying unaccredited work that needed to be petitioned for credit elsewhere...Love the idea, hate the harsh reality that calls it stupid.