17 September 2014

We Are

College is a time when you are putting yourself together. In a very real way, it's THE time you are doing this.

I know. 0-5. When the body is literally putting itself together.

What I'm talking about is self-control on the where each thing goes.

A college freshman must (usually) deal with: being alone for the first time, living with non-family, sorting through a schedule on their own, time management, laundry, food, etc.

All while doing the work the classes demand.

Let's not pretend that the college freshman is somehow a blighted individual worthy of our sympathy. While the debt they are taking on is definitely worth a few tears, I won't lose sleep over these new kids joining the already massive crowd - Today more than 40 million of Americans have student debt. That pile of non-existent cash tops out at $1.2 trillion.

This fall I am teaching two sections on identity in America. The classes are basic English 101 deals, with the bonus of me being able to design the reading list.

I could not think of a better topic for incoming freshmen to deal with.

Who we are as a country, as groups, as individuals needles its way into every day life. Into the make-up of the country. Politics, communities, online scandals.

This week we are reading The Gettysburg Address and looking at it for rhetorical devices. It's in prep for the students working on their own analysis paper. Read over the lines I was reminded that the Address was read at the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attack in New York. That we, as a country, turned back 138 years for comfort.

And there is something in that about who we are as a people.

That we looked backwards to explain the present.

I'd make some analogy about how the nation at this point in time is like a college freshmen, figuring out how to do laundry and eat properly on our own for the first time. But I think that's obvious.