Oh, what a time it’s been! Four crazy years and countless reams of paper – we swiftly approach graduation. As I look over the last proofs of the Hill News as editor-in-chief, it seems obligatory to share my reflections. I’ll try not to be too self-indulgent.
I went through the trouble of studying media production for several years only to discover the depths of media analysis. I’ve become thoroughly confused about which direction is worth my attention – with or against a great tide. My advisor understands the contention; he teaches traditional journalism to one class and criticizes it to another class. It’s odd to tell people that the editor of our school newspaper questions the institution of newspapers. I’ll just say my point is not simply that natural forms and customs of communication are endangered.
It occurs to me that academic study necessitates a degree of disillusionment, which is probably for the best. How sad would it be to attend a liberal arts university only to reaffirm the beliefs you had in the first place? No, it’s much better to learn various facts, study them critically and adjust your opinion accordingly. I think it’s that openness and diversity that attracts students to the liberal arts.
What concerns me now is the extent to which that diversity translates to inter-disciplinary study. My sociology courses suggest that diversity promotes faculty bickering – budgets and projects subjected to the various and often opposing ideologies. Though we are always asked to be critical, many courses promote a specific perspective. Such behavior is common for an individual with an audience and I suppose it’s customary too for the classroom, thus the construction of lecture halls.
Hill News editors frequently notice that students want to write editorials more than news articles. I’m hard-pressed to be critical because objectivity and subjectivity are both easily mocked. Culture writ large seems comfortable with the ambiguity that results from thousands of absolutists, millions of acolytes, and a sprinkling of freeloaders. Not everyone can be a leader, though many try. The Dude abides.
Suffice to say I’m not sold on the cult of the individual, which is the “closest thing American culture has to a common ideal” according to Nathan Heller of the New Yorker. I’m concerned that detachment and tolerance are strange bedfellows. I argue that good work always comes down to teamwork and that’s really what I’ve enjoyed at St. Lawrence. The team spirit that seems natural to some is daunting to others. I was terrified to assert myself amongst a team when I first came here but eventually found it natural once I identified my self-motivations. Inward becomes outward.
It’s always refreshing to see first-years founding groups and acting together, even if it’s just for intelligent discussion. I hope that upward trend continues on the worn paths and newly blazed trails of St. Lawrence. If the seminars and “fishbowls” of FYP felt forced, they might still prove useful so don’t let them rust with post-modern indifference. The classroom struggle for intimacy should be supplemented – not supplanted – by friends, theme houses, Thelmo-sponsored organizations, honorary societies, Greek life, sports, performance groups – whatever, however, wherever. Intellect calls for creativity undefined by form.
My point is that something wonderful exists between the democratic and the authoritarian. I’ll call it collective and define it broadly: teamwork, family, corporation, religion, community, tribe, earth, humanity. McCandless, with some help from Krakauer and Hirsh, showed us that we require collective being and should respect that social symbolism. Yes, dictates and abuses keep us in a world of tumult, but you are probably more adept to overcome, if you can fully accept the mystery of it all.
So there you have it, my final stand on a soapbox I’ve come to hate and love, though my reflections aren’t categorical. I send a thousand thanks and several sorrys to those deserving, they know who they are. SLU: here’s looking at you, kid.
Stephen Alexander Knight