Setting itself up for certain mockery, Tufts University is plopping face-first into the shallows of contemporary culture with an essay question that is revealing, more than anything, of the state of academia today.
Private liberal arts college and out-of-touch dad Tufts University wants to know what “#YOLO” means to the Class of 2018. For the uninitiated, #YOLO is the horribly irresponsible acronym/hashtag/neologism coined by Drake, and stands for “You Only Live Once.” Tufts, known for its off-the-wall essay questions, provides six essay prompts, one of which asks students the following:
E) The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?
First of all, "ancient Romans" — was there another kind? — did not "start it" wholesale. The aphorism comes from one of the Odes of Horace. I don't suggest that Tufts should turn its admissions essay questions into lessons on antiquity. But that information is freely available on Wikipedia.
Second, did nobody in human history have any thoughts on the matter between 20 B.C. and the advent of Rent? Not Chaucer or Shakespeare? Nobody but a poet who lived in Rome and a librettist who lived in the East Village? Really?
That is, except for rapper Drake. Which brings us to my third objection with this question. Granted, the question is voluntary. And, moreover, colleges need not be ivory towers wholly removed from the culture of the day, even if that culture involves Justin Bieber peeing in mop buckets.