My friend Dr. J recently wrote about the various transitions in the faculty, and noted in passing that we should be careful not to push the 60’s era faculty out before we’ve had a chance to pick their brains on instructing war veterans.
I had a passel of veterans at MTSU (10-12?) and it was really quite an excellent experience. They were far and away my best students, did the work assigned and snatched nearly all the A’s in the course.
They often had strong views about the more abstruse metaphysical problems that they felt were directly connected to their experiences and political opinions. Precisely because they came in so hot and opinionated, they were the best at addressing counterpoints and ultimately the most open-minded. For instance, most were not just committed Christians (atheists and foxholes, etc) but also young earth creationists(!) yet they took great pleasure in tangling with Hume and Nietzsche.
I had a couple of ‘burned-out’ veterans as well… one clearly suffered from combat-related mental illness and had trouble focusing on the course. Still, by the end, she had managed to focus enough to produce the work required and did better than every one of the nineteen year-olds. I got the sense that being in school was a challenging but welcome respite from her demons. Another found that the Nicomachean Ethics helped him work through some substance abuse issues, though he didn’t do quite so well academically. Nonetheless, he told some harrowing battle stories that really helped the rest of the class put Hume’s analysis of miracles to the test.
Frankly, I eagerly welcome the influx of non-dilettante adult learners. Forget the boost it’ll supply to our enrollment. They’re a pleasure to teach because philosophy is actually serious business for them.