Thursday, July 27, 2006

Late Night Chats

Bodoh, Joe Powell and I had our late night chat. Suffice it to say, I am in agreement with Bodoh on the subjects of movies and video games, as well as on certain rules that pertain to these. I'm also about to break my earlier promise of a non-statement and make a point about this.

First off, I write about this because I care about this. My sister is coming to Christendom as a freshman in the fall, and I honestly want her to have the best experience she could possibly have. Sometimes I worry about that, and this post will do a small bit of explaining why that is so.

In its efforts to mandate what it sees to be a proper community experience, the school often departs from the creation of rules and atmospheres conducive to true community. Rules such as the ones described are unacceptable intrusions into the personal lives of people who are essentially adults. They have that funny smell, the smell of a superficial understanding of human nature, and that particularly rank odor that arises from social experimentation.

Community will arise if we only allow it to. Some of my fondest experiences of community life on campus was sitting up late nights in the dorm with some of the best friends I'll ever make in my life. Common rooms were not a part of this experience. Video games and movies often were.

People who know me will remember that I was never a member of any cliques, nor was a game-headed loner. This is not an exposition on my greatness, but it is a statement that there are many people who are like me in the fact that they do not fit into the ideal that Christendom has concocted concerning true community life. Community comes from shared ideals, fellowship, and common ends. I would have thought that this was an obvious point, especially for the philosophy-minded Christendom administration. True community does not come from following guidelines and rules that are supposed to "foster community," by eliminating things that "distract from" community. People will join together in the bonds of friendship by nature, and others will close themselves off from the world. That is the way of it. Those who tend to join with others in community will use video games, movies, etc., for that purpose. Those who tend to close themselves off will do that with the help of these things. The school oversimplifies the complexities of these issues by assuming that if a thing is ever used as a tool against community, then that thing should be banned. Using that logic, we should ban religion, books, and thinking in general.

I'm not making a case for video games and movies as much as I am saying that the school is making an attempt to micro-manage in a damaging, even possibly sinful way. We've observed this trend in a sort of downward spiral that many of our rules and communty issues have been taking, and I think that we really need to take responsibility for our own community lives. I think it is a tribute to Christendom students that we still have a strong community, not "in spite of those wretched video games," but rather, in spite of the unneccesary and damaging regulations in this area.

As someone who is not at the moment a Christendom student, my opinion is by definition compromised in its relevance, but I think I'm entitled to a parting comment. Anyway, there you have it. I don't know how many people I represent in this viewpoint, but I also want to depart by saying that I don't wish to cause any trouble. I just think that I really do have an obligation to make this point. Thank you for your patience.


Anonymous said...

I am afraid I most adamantly disagree. (:

When Dr. Reyes(of blessed memory) taught Catholic Higher Education, he emphasized one point over and over. The Catholic understanding of education combines moral formation with intellectual formation, because the soul of a virtuous man perceives truth more easily. The traditional means of moral formation: holy teachers and lots of rules. Intrusions are ok, because you are not an adult intellectually - your mind is being formed and your habits need to be formed with it.

As to this particular rule, I think the key is one's concept of true community. You said, "Community will arise if we only allow it to." But we don't want just any kind of community to arise, we want GOOD community to arise. Perhaps the comradery that arises whilst playing video games is less wholesome and less enriching than the community that over coffee in the Student Center. Perhaps it is too difficult to monitor private movie watching and student's tastes need purging. Though you may not find movies and video games a serious tempation to imprudence, many fellows fall behind in studies or sleep because of video game addiction. It is the right of the College's lawful authorities to decide whether the possible evils of an activity are grave enough to warrant intervention.

Liberal arts education is FORMATION - students cannot expect to understand the importance of all the rules right away. "But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that instruct many to justice, as stars for all eternity." Dan 12:3

P.S. Sorry this was so long.

Anonymous said...

I speak as an affiliate familiar with Christendom, in anonymity.

A rule is another word for a law: An ordinance of right reason, promulgated by him who has care of the community. Four of these five conditions are met by these new additions to the Tome. I am dubious about the applicability of "right reason" to the recent rule changes.

If fellows are falling behind in their studies or sleep due to excessive indulgence in video games, one would think that failing grades should be sanction enough for the fellow in question to figure out that he'd better change his routine or face washing out. If this prospect is not enough, it would seem that he should never have been accepted to Christendom in the first place. Unfortunately, It seems that a family history of being able to pay tuition bills is among the main factors in deciding a prospective student's acceptance at Christendom, not necessarily their academic prowess or ability to function civilly with human beings.

Christendom has a role, as you say, in formation. It is not, on the other hand, a reform school. If mommy and daddy failed to inculcate certain basic social and academic virtues in their little darlings, it is not the duty of serious students to have to suffer for their wayward compatriots' failings. Freedom is the ability to choose the good. A mental patient in a strait jacket may be there for his own good, but it certainly cannot be considered freedom. When such restrictions are placed on sane people, they tend to resent the fact justifiably. Sane people know they ought not jab sporks into their eyes. My point? Christendom should not offer "asylum" to students with a proven track record of being an incorrigible screw-up. They should be expurgated with extreme judice and incredible speed, so good habits besides cleaning up vomit from one's consistently drunken dormmate may be freely practiced.

It is my opinion that this rule, because it is not in conformity with right reason, is not a rule at all, and that those who wish may in good conscience freely perform these activities, so long as they are willing to accept the penalties if caught. It would be pleasant if the more serious rules were enforced to the letter of the law. It would root out most of the people who are reason these rules are being levied on the rest of us. But then, that's unreasonable, given Christendom's history.

Your mildly condescending statements are beginning to annoy me.

Here's a scriptural quote I find more applicable to my view on Christendom's inability to enforce the most serious rules. Solomon was among the more common-sense people the world has known. "Be thou not overmuch wicked. And be thou not foolish, lest thou die before thy time."

Fezzick said...

I don't really know how this works, but it would be nice to know who it is that's commenting on my post. Especially if your post contains strongly worded material. I meant for this post to raise questions in people's minds, questions that might possibly lead to other questions. That, I have found, is the most effective way of exploring ideosyncracies of this nature. To this end, please speak in charity when commenting.

So, anyway, in answer to the first anonymous person, I dispute the relevance of your comment: "Perhaps the comradery that arises whilst playing video games is less wholesome and less enriching than the community that over coffee in the Student Center..." This is because the "perhaps" is in fact not a "perhaps", since the statement, logically, is non-negotiable. You are, in effect, presenting the relative lowliness of video games and movies as a given so that I might then accept your argument for the school's right to regulate them. This is, at the very least, unconvincing.

Secondly, I am rather disturbed at the comment: "The traditional means of moral formation: holy teachers and lots of rules." This is not true. I'd like to think that if one's habits are not formed to some extent when leaving home for college, frankly one should not yet be leaving the home. Making rules on this level of intimacy is the place of parents, since they are the fundamental moral formers of their children. No institution can take that place, not a school, not a government. The moral formation of those who are no longer children takes place on a fundamentally different plane. On this plane, people cannot and must not be held in a state of spiritual infancy. The rules that exist must respect their matured level of perception and acknowledge at least some level of moral accountability. Otherwise, continued maturity will be very, very difficult.

healthily sanguine said...

I agree that the rules cannot hold you in a state of infancy and certainly should not legislate over every little thing. However, college is kind of an in-between phase between childhood and adulthood. Ok, you are no longer a child, if you don't do your homework you won't get spanked and if you don't get to sleep at a decent hour you won't be scolded. On the other hand, you're still learning the consequences of your actions and the very serious truth that your personal mistakes affect other people. Your making out with your girlfriend in the Commons or your coming into class dressed like a slob does have an effect on the overall environment of Christendom and well-being of everyone. Rather than looking at the rules from our culture's ubiquitous radical individualism, look at them as preparation for the sacrifices that we as adult Christians will be called to make for our fellow men. We have to be shining examples, not just halfway decent individuals. We have to rely on each other's strength and discipline. Finally, should we not give our elders and betters at Christendom the benefit of the doubt when it comes to who has "right reason"? I may disagree with the need for a certain rule, but can I honestly say I know better than the competent authorities? Should I not rather accept the rule in a spirit of humility and obedience, especially if the rule in question does me no real harm? Just some points to consider.

Oh, and I second Colin's exhortation to comment in charity. I will allow anonymous comments for now, but if we start getting flame wars I will restrict it to Blogger users only.

In Christ,