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July 16, 2006

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Jodi

um, Ryan, what conservative 'thinkers' do you have in mind? And, why do you put the 'thinkers' you were 'taught' into contemporary dichotomies of liberal and conservative--most don't fit there, after all. And, if there were conservative thinkers that interested you, did you go ahead and read them on your own? College isn't supposed to teach you all you need to know. It's supposed to provide you with skills for finding out what you want to know and challenge you to broaden and question what you want to know, why, and how.

rwilson

I love how quickly you respons to my posts on here. Honestly all but a few of my poli sci classes at HWS taught me anything meaningful in the real world except to drive me to stand up for my own beliefs and not believe any of the opinionated left wing BS you hear. The main reason I decided to major in poli sci as well as econ is because I knew it would challenge me. I knew I would have to sit through semesters listening to profs BS the entire class just because they have the power to do so. That has helped me in the real world because unlike the world of academe you can't just pass a few reviews you receive total job security and can therefore say whatever comes to your mind because you cant be fired.

Kaj

Hi Jodi,

I don’t know if I count as a member of the Y-generation. Soon to be 25 years old, but I have never owned a cell phone, I never play computer games, the first time I used the Internet was when I came to college in the U.S. (in high school, in Sweden, I wrote my papers by hand!), and an I-pod – what’s that? But I have one specific answer why I, personally, rarely debated in class in college and one more general note about students today.
Firstly, to reply on my own behalf: I think slowly. I need time to form an opinion in my mind. I often felt like getting involved in debates, but I got, and still get, into trouble when my opinions are attacked; “Sorry, let me just think for a few minutes before I can reply” is not the sexiest thing you can say in a heated debate. If anything could be described as characteristic for discussions in our time, it’s this: there’s no patience! No time for deliberation! Just look at talk shows like The O’Reilly Factor – people are not even allowed to finish their sentences.
I often felt, at least in the beginning of my time in college, that I had every reason to be humble about my knowledge. Therefore I listened and observed, and developed my opinions through my writing. Finally, as my knowledge grew, I also became more confident to speak out. Perhaps, then, I’m also trying to say this: shouldn’t there be a greater respect for silence? Can’t silence, in some cases, be productive and nurture a better environment for debate? Could it not, sometimes (or always), be preferable to be quiet instead of talking without saying anything?
Secondly, the general observation – and this goes specifically for American students: they don’t follow the news. And the news they get are often packaged as action films. In other words, they come poorly prepared; more often than not, they lack the necessary width of knowledge to make the depth knowledge of college truly meaningful and tangible. It’s difficult to form an opinion when you can’t apply your theoretical knowledge to reality, in lack of better words.

Kaj

Randall


I have had a very similar experience to Kaj regarding the preference for quick response over serious reflection, and that tendency has made me take serious pause (appropriately, i suppose) when deciding whether to continue on an academic career path.

I believe that the privileging of the quick is partially, as you say, the result of modeling behavior on what is available for mass consumption in the media (after all, the people who tend to create promiscuous output are also going to be disproportionally represented in the public sphere, normalizing the pace of their output). It's also, I think, a defense mechanism to the psychological impact of the overall input/output disequalibrium. With so much noise out there, how can people know when they have appropriate/enough knowledge to be ready to speak?

This is one reason why I am slow to embrace the 'democratizing internet culture' narrative. Democratization does not, as Hannah Arendt pointed out, mean the same thing as the erosion of authority and the equalization of all voices. Once equalized, once democratized, it must seem onerous to be asked to think carefully about an opinion, to study history, to identify and become familiar with relevant discourses.

It's also why i'm slow -- though i'm beginning -- to participate in the blog culture. At what point does a proliferation of content also become a diffusion?

Jodi

Kaj and Randall,

Thanks for your comments. Randall, I share your concern about diffusion and your criticism of democratization via the internet.

Kaj, your points regarding respecting silence are important. I need to keep them in mind as the term starts. Quickness can well be a cover for lack of preparation, a way of mimicking inane television debate shows. Good questions should require some thought, not just immediate responses and debate. To be honest, it can be scary to ask a question and look upon 25 or so silent faces. Harder still is it to accept the silence and let it linger for a while.

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