Professor Kerry Cronin and her famous dating class at Boston College are back in the news. This time it is Elizabeth Bernstein of The Wall Street Journal who unpacks Dr. Cronin’s class, the young Generation Z students who take it, and the reasons why such a course has become oddly necessary.
Interestingly, Cronin’s class isn’t one of those fluff courses – like underwater basket weaving – that many of us mock as examples of how higher education is declining. Instead, Cronin’s dating assignment is part of a course studying the Great Books and Western Culture:
One of her goals, Dr. Cronin says, is to help students examine the best way for a person to live, drawing upon the greatest thinkers of history – Socrates, Aristotle, Machiavelli and the like – as well as their own lives. She wants to teach them social courage: understanding the parameters of their comfort zone, why they are what they are, and how to push through them. She has required the dating assignment for a number of years but says the current cohort of students is particularly in need of the lessons. As it is, she says, many members of Gen Z are opting out of dating altogether.
So what is this bombshell advice that helps terrified students get out of their comfort zone and do this odd thing we once knew as dating? To be honest, it’s quite straightforward:
Ask for a date in person
Make sure the other person knows it’s a date
Keep it quiet – don’t publish the news on every social media channel
Keep it short – don’t drag the date on for hours
Limit physical interaction
The reason for the last point is simple:
“I tell them that hookup culture front loads physical intimacy and then you are left seeing if you want to catch up with emotional intimacy,” Dr. Cronin says. “This approach purposely holds off the physical to see if you want both the emotional and the physical intimacy.”
Cronin also encourages parents to be involved in the dating process, but in a specific way: humor.
“Support them with humor. Let them laugh with you about the stupid stuff about dating and the fear of it. Don’t interrogate them or put pressure on them and make the whole project seem like a weighty, serious issue. Don’t make it a serious issue. Then they will be afraid of failing because it will seem like a milestone they can’t achieve.”
If you think this is pretty basic advice, then you’re right: it’s plain old common sense. It’s common sense to be specific about pursuing someone romantically. It’s common sense for a couple to meet on a mental and emotional basis before diving into the physical. It’s common sense for young people to seek parental wisdom in a relationship, and it’s also common sense for parents to not be overbearing or controlling in the matter.
The thing is, common sense isn’t all that common anymore. Today’s society applauds itself for being edgy, new, diverse, and a hater of the past.
But is such a “woke” approach to life really working? Would we see happier and better established young people if we re-examined and re-taught the solid structures upon which youth of past generations built their relationships and families?