Recent plus/minus debate is truly ironic
I have hesitated all week about whether or not I want to be the next
person to embark on the plus/minus debate. In fact, I just finished telling
a friend that I shouldn't be an additional commentator and hash it out
In a recent class, I was talking about cosmopolitanism and the extent
to which it is a mere form of utopianism. And while we're here in Brunswick,
having charged debates over whether or not we should have little symbols
standing next to our letter grades, there is a large portion of the world
population that doesn't even have the chance to get grades.
Although I have not been at Bowdoin as long as three quarters of students
have, I dare say that I have a decent sense of the student body. And to
a large extent, we are disgustingly complacent. Issues of huge national
and international consequence barely hold our attention long enough for
there to be a move toward action, or better yet, a thought about moving.
I'd venture a guess that less than half of the student body reads the
newspaper, even on a weekly basis. We're too busy.
And yet, we can put up a fuss about a plus/minus system that realistically
will have very little impact on the greater context of our lives. Regardless
of whether or not we think a change in the system would be for the best,
or whether we think current classes should be grandfathered, or whether
the whole thing should be dropped, I think most of us are acutely aware
of the issue at hand.
And frankly, I think it's hilarious. Of all the things we could choose
to get riled up about, we choose a matter that is about as significant
on a large scale as the color of the socks I'm wearing. I think students
here are pretty smart-certainly among the elite-and the only thing that
can get students to call meetings, send out petitions, and foster some
"intellectual" debate is a question about which no one else
I'd rather laugh about it, because in the end, I think it is a very sad
commentary on our principles. I don't think the commentary is exclusive
to Bowdoin, though perhaps it is more pronounced here than elsewhere.
But since we have gotten ourselves all worked up over something, perhaps
some of us have learned that it feels good to be active for a change.
It will only have been worth it, however, if we can sustain this charged
atmosphere in matters upon which we should be acting.
A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with a professor about certain characteristics
that are lacking in our generation. In a rhetorical question that we should
seriously consider, the professor asked: "Where is the radicalism
that young people are supposed to put forth?"
It is a question that has resounded, because I have been asking the same one for all too long, it seems. I am, however, not enough of an idealist to believe that we will uncover the thirst for change and action and much less for those issues and causes that are actually worthwhile.