Penn State vs. Reality (From the archives)

Lt MurphyPerception versus Reality


Last night I watched a video that I immediately found offensive and had a truly hard time watching. The video was made in the whimsical world of “Academia” and more specifically Penn State University. The Office of Student Affairs put the video together and the title of the production is, The Worrisome Veteran.

The video consists of a young female professor speaking to her mentor and department lead about concerns and specifically about one student in particular. The young professor starts airing concerns about the conduct and mental abilities of the student and her basic concerns for her safety.

I will start with my own experience as a Veteran in the student environment. It is true that a person who has achieved a certain level of maturity and experience in life can struggle or grow impatient with those that have not. This can be not only as a result of military service but also from just experiencing life. A single mother who is faced with the daily responsibility of rearing and caring for a child and providing while trying to better herself can also “suffer” from this terrible affliction of a lack of patience. Are there videos being made about the worrisome single mother? I didn’t think so because instead of showing fear or perpetuating a terrible myth we celebrate the fact that someone who has made certain choices or been faced with circumstances has risen above and wants to be a positive contributor to society. So why is that a Veteran who VOLUNTEERED to serve his or her Nation which is the people not just the geopolitical borders is being villianized?

Tragically in America there have been some horrific events involving schools at all levels from Elementary Schools through higher learning. I can totally appreciate the concern for teachers safety. Teachers face adolescents at a time when self expression, exploration and discovery is the most volatile. Am I the only one that remembers a time when educators were celebrated for rising above the level of their students and extracted their full potential. When films flooded out of Hollywood sharing these triumphant stories like Stand and Deliver, Lean on Me, and Dangerous Minds. Here was an entire genre of films dedicated to the bravery and resolve of teachers to face the more difficult challenges in education and turn them from a life of crime and despair into positive role models and community leaders. How have we now arrived at a place when the person that has already been a positively contributing member of society and already is a leader in the community is the greatest threat in Academia?

In an effort to find answers it seems I can only ask more questions so lets start putting some answers in place. Firstly if the issue is a political agenda about gun control and fear mongering, shame on you! It is a cold hard fact that all branches of the military include and mandate weapons education as part of the basic introductory training. This does not mean that every Veteran is carrying a weapon or has a secret cache of weapons at their home which is a well secured urban fortress preparing for the apocalypse. The shooters involved in these horrific crimes in the news are not Veterans. Serving in the Military used to warrant being respected, not feared, or victims of prejudice from ignorant and naïve citizens.

Another issue in the video was the Veteran student’s communication skills. I watched the video several times to make sure I grasped the situation and didn’t miss some of the script nuances. The Professor talks about how the Veteran is always in class and attends office hours regularly to discuss his work and grades. Again I am failing to see the negative issue here. A professor who has a student so eager to learn that he shows up to class regularly and attends office hours because of the concern for his grade seems like an ideal situation for an educator. Let’s grab another dash of perspective quickly. This Veteran just served the Nation during a time of war and one of the most coveted earned benefits is access to funding for education. The student had to get into the school on merit which had nothing to do with service and is paying for his own school out of his benefit earned with combat service. There is no doubt in my mind that most Veterans using earned benefits and savings from their service show up to class on time and prepared. They are not in college or university on any persons hard earned money other than themselves. They worked hard for several years in a manner that 99.55% of the general American public cannot relate to or understand to get into that school and want to achieve. Secondly Veterans regardless of service are accustomed to a level of communication that is affective and timely. Candor is used and appreciated by most Veterans as it is an amazingly accurate and fast form of communicating. In the video the professor repeatedly tells the Veteran that his grammar is not to standard and needs work however never states anything specifically and only offers a student resource center. A ten second explanation of which part of his grammar be it punctuation, spelling would give a point of reference to get help from somebody interested in educating.

My final point to this Professor and video makers is this. If a person can’t handle simple questions about their field of practice they might want to get better educated as well. When a person expected to communicate curriculum is not capable that failure is not on the student but the teacher. Being asked repeatedly to explain something is usually an indication of a communication failure rather than a lack of intelligence or capability. The Veteran is not standing in front of the teacher in an effort to intimidate his or herself into a better grade like boosters for athletes do, they are just simply wanting to learn. I know its so far fetched to think that people in the adult world go to school to learn and better their collective stations in life rather than compete in beer pong and create a library of drunken exploits.

Never have I seen a greater disconnect between those that are employed to educate and foster the future of our Nation more than this embarrassing and tasteless offering. The saddest part about this whole ordeal is that the makers of the film have demonstrated their failure as educators and instead of being progressive thinkers that they are bigoted and ignorant to the demographic that historically is most likely to be the leaders. With all the buzz words and topics like bullying and violence the enlightened ones sure do live in a world of darkness. However I have no doubt that there was not a film made celebrating Lt Michael Murphy and explaining to the student body how he earned and was awarded the Medal of Honor.