You may have recently read about Colin Ashby, a student at Texas State University who chose to live in his car during freshman year in order to afford going to college. Without going into great detail here about his story, Ashby found himself between a rock and a hard place when it came time for school – he had some money, but not enough, and with his parents going through a divorce, he was in no position to rely on them for assistance. What’s more, he didn’t want to; he wanted to handle his own responsibilities, and, to that end, he made the drastic decision to live out of his car for his freshman year. As it happens, Ashby has worked so hard that he will graduate this December after just two and a half years with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, and is now, thankfully, living with a brother.
If we take young Colin at his word…and we have no basis, to my knowledge, for doing otherwise…this is simply a case of a young man who wanted a college education, and was willing to go through as much as he both realistically and unrealistically could to get one. Even for those of us in the “older generation,” who are products of parents that saw America through its greatest challenges of the 20th century, his self-imposed living arrangements while going to college are considered extreme; I don’t know if I would have been willing to do what he did…probably not, but neither do I think gauging the willingness of the rest of us to do what Colin Ashby did is really the point. The point is, how do we, as a society, react to what he did? Do we dismiss him as being stupid for putting himself through this…or do we see him as courageous, and as a representation of values that appear sorely lacking in this day and age? How each of us answers that question says a lot about both the kind of nation we have currently, as well as the kind we seek to have in the future.