In Joseph McKeen’s inaugural address, delivered at the opening of the College in 1802, this one line has stood the test of time and continues to influence Bowdoin’s self-image to this day: “…It ought always to be remembered, that literary institutions are founded and endowed for the common good, and not for the private advantage of those who resort to them for education.” But in the two centuries that have passed since McKeen delivered his address, we have become disconnected from the original meaning of the “common good.” I think the typical way we handle the topic of the common good today is to sidestep the full moral implications of the term. We take it to mean that a liberal arts education is meant to educate students to make a meaningful impact in the world and that the very act of being here and receiving an education is in some way contributing to the common good.
The other weekend, I was talking with my best friend from Bates College when the subject of the surprise hit thriller “Get Out” came up in conversation. He asked me, “What did you think?” I gave the usual response, saying it was “so good” and “so funny.” He disapproved of the response and retorted, “No, but what did you really think about it?” Honestly, I had to put a great deal of thought into my response.
Bowdoin’s Department of Government and Legal Studies has an incredible reputation. But it is clear to me that its highly ranked status has in fact impeded the department’s motivation to improve. Bowdoin’s government department was the only department that escaped criticism in the 2013 National Association of Scholars (NAS) report—a report in which the major criticisms of Bowdoin were that it is accepting of different gender and sexual identities, that it emphasizes multiculturalism and that it does not focus enough on traditional American and Western political values.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about my experiences navigating small talk at Bowdoin. The tenor of that article was focused on the function of small talk as a mechanism of forming solidarity: Bowdoin students use small talk to commiserate over shared experiences.
On March 8, 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared the Cold War rivalry a “struggle between right and wrong,” and warned against “the aggressive impulses of [said] evil empire.” The message was clear: Communism would not stand.
The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and we agreed that we all can’t save the world. Let me back up. This conversation started when we were talking about Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special on Netflix.
Now that spring has arrived in Brunswick, and it is tolerable, even pleasant, to be outdoors for more than a few minutes, I find it increasingly difficult to stay holed up in a library. Whereas the library provides a warm haven from the colder and darker Maine months, now the shining sun makes those same cubicles feel more like cells.
Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the “Why Are College Houses So White” discussion panel held at Reed House. A fellow panelist did a wonderful job of explaining how and why they thought students of color could possibly feel isolated in a College House setting.
The scientific method has long been held the hallmark of experimentation in the natural world. Asking a question, formulating and testing hypotheses then collecting and interpreting data allows us to draw educated conclusions about phenomena from ant ecology to particle physics to neurogenesis.