This column is a response to the piece “The state of the union remains strong through Trump’s first months.” In their column, Ezra Rice and Francisco Navarro write hopefully about our ability to preserve the American system through Donald Trump’s four years as president: “Though millions of Americans remain worried for the future, we can be reassured by the power of our American system and be certain that the state of our union remains strong.” To me, this positive regard for our system ignores the ways our status quo was failing the majority of Americans before Trump; it also conflates the prosperity of the American people with the stability of our government.
My advice ought to reflect this world as it really is, not a utopian ideal of what it could or should be. I am drawing the parameters of “this world” to encompass Hubbard Hall, the sixth floor of the stacks, the Moulton Light Room and the occasional class in Sills Hall, Adams Hall or on the 16th floor of Coles Tower.
It is no secret that the humanities are fighting to survive in the 21st century. Seeking to justify their existence to federal or state financiers, college presidents and skeptical parents, defenders of the humanities are producing page upon page, book upon book seeking to explain why they do what they do.
By now, we’ve probably all heard about the recent events that unfolded at Middlebury when Charles Murray was invited to speak or the violent protests that arose when Milo Yiannopoulos was asked to speak at UC Berkeley.
Class has occupied a larger space in conversation at Bowdoin this year, or at least people want it to. Symbols and experiences of class, wealth and intergenerational mobility have been built up, broken down and disseminated to the campus through efforts from the McKeen Center for the Common Good, the Orient, Inter-Group Dialogue, The Office of Residential Life and other organizations.
Rachel Baron ’17’s op-ed in last week’s edition of the Orient criticized the Department of Government and Legal Studies as “stuck in the past” and in need of changes that will bring it “into the modern era.” We believe this article is misguided and reflects a misunderstanding of the Government and Legal Studies curriculum.
I will end with a story because it’s an easy way to say goodbye. In ninth grade, I joined the cross-country team because my best friend joined the cross-country team. This is how high school works.
Fortune favors us: the American millennial. We were born in the luckiest place, at the luckiest time in history. Our generation, both the largest and best educated in history, is provided and expects welfare programs, a developed and robust economy, public transportation, emergency health care, rule of law, accountability of our leaders, economic mobility, constitutionally guaranteed individual rights and on average eight decades of life.
The sun is shining and the tank is clean. Yes, it’s that time of year again—the long awaited Ivies week(end). Droves of students flood Salvo to update their mandatory Ivies uniforms: fanny packs, overalls, velvet track suit, jorts, obnoxiously bright neon… everything.
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.