Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Concerns About January 2010 Issue

We have recently received a few responses about the recent issue and just wanted to share some of those concerns with all of you.

A response to Malleable Eastern Student and Kilgore Wilson,
I wanted to address your pieces in the recent Citizine about service learning and complacency on campus. I will focus primarily on the service learning bit, but Kilgore, please don't disregard this as not pertaining to you at all, as the general message of my response to Malleable is very much along the same line of thought for you. Let's begin.

Dorothy Day once said that “Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.” And she's right, words are powerful…or at least they have the potential to be. However, these words need to be thought out and presented well. A brief emotional quip of cynicism, worthy of a personal diary on a bad day, will not suffice. The point of writing something shouldn't be to meet a deadline or to piss and moan about an often grieved topic. Yes, Eastern struggles with striving for Justice and we can bemoan that until we are beating a dead horse (if we aren't already). We can bitch about how all YACHT does is hand out sandwiches and we can complain about how requiring service learning may not exactly be enacting justice and it probably won't live up to its full purpose or potential because there will be unwilling participants that show up to “serve” because they are required to.
Sure. Right. We get it. Required service is paradoxical. Handing out sandwiches does not eradicate homelessness or address the root structural problems behind homelessness and poverty. Yet, what are the alternatives? Is the only outlet available to those who take issue with these two things writing cynical, sarcastic, and condescending jests? (If so, then the CitiZine will have lost its appeal.) Does this not reek of the same creative lacking of those who mindlessly take-part in these things? Is it not actually worse?

Let me explain how it is worse: Those who take part in the “compulsory service program” in “blind obedience” don't seem to acknowledge that fact. Are they to be held accountable for the ignorance of their own ignorance? Yet, those who steep with frustration about the “progressive and forward thinking[ness]” of Eastern have failed to prescribe any progressive alternatives or solutions to the issues they have so easily (and eagerly) diagnosed. In regards to Eastern's mandatory service learning, many concerns were raised that seemed to lack a real point, purpose, and even an overall general substance outside of the defeatist tone in which it was presented. My next few comments will be made under the general assumptions that: Eastern students weren't forced to come here, students of Eastern University did their research and knew what to expect upon coming here (understood Eastern's reputation for being social-justice-conscious), are Christ followers, and carry just as much baggage as any other 18 or 19 year old (or whatever-year-old) about to enter university:
1.If you don't like what Eastern is about, no one is forcing you to stay.
2.If you feel that Eastern was advertised falsely to you—which may be a legitimate concern—this is still not grounds for spouting off gloomy rants without a single helpful suggestion.
3.If you feel that Eastern has great potential to work for justice and the current methodology isn't sufficient or could be adjusted or changed in any beneficial way, then address that with the appropriate people (Julie Elliott, Andy Horvath, Bettie Ann Brigham, Dr. Hall, Dr. Black, or Dr. King, to name a few) as I'm sure they would be more than happy to discuss these matters with you.
4.If you feel that Eastern thinks they have what justice is nailed down pat, then I'm not sure you've grasped the point of the Justice class, Justice reader, service learning, or even the one third of INST 150 that is focused on Justice. As none of these Justice oriented items are attempting to spoon-feed you what Justice is as if it were some simplistic definition to be learned. Perhaps it is the fear of engaging in the process of justice seeking that has you so (seemingly) upset. Though I will tell you that justice is not a formula. And while it is discouraging to take a mandatory justice class with others who might not appear to care as much, no matter how many dreary soliloquy's you write, they will not make the class more bearable or the conversation more helpful and uplifting.

Side note (and the only personal rant of my own): there are scores and scores, plethora upon plethora of theology books, yet I'm pretty sure that no one thinks we've figured God out, so don't you think the whole “I mean, why would we have a university-created justice textbook if we didn't think we had it pretty figured out” comment might have been an unnecessary cheap shot)?

Overall, I'm not really sure how either of your pieces helped. I've been looking for what the message behind the piece is, but I can't seem to find it. I do know that it didn't help your problems with Eastern's approach to Justice (in any of the aforementioned realms), it didn't help Eastern students be more creative about how they approach justice, it didn't help make caring about justice seem appealing to those who don't. It didn't help Eastern. It didn't help the CitiZine. It didn't help you (unless you take joy in passive aggressive cowardice by hiding behind the ambiguous title of “Malleable Eastern Student”). Simply stated, it didn't help.

I have a few suggestions for the two of you:
1.Think before you write.
2.Don't allow yourself to write anything that doesn't have some sort of positive alternative/outcome (it's depressing).
3.Stay away from generalizations and research what you're presenting prior to publishing it.
4.Stay away from sarcastic condescension as it makes what your writing distasteful.
5.Explain your ideas further, don't assume that people will understand your train of thought. (This isn't to say that they can't disagree, they can. But if they can't understand your point, how will they ever be able to disagree to begin with?)
6.Don't criticize one of the most active groups on campus simply because they aren't doing enough. YACHT has struggled with how to deal with the root problems of homelessness as college students since its genesis. They're not content either. (Though there is something just about befriending and dignifying those whom are marginalized and neglected.)
7.Don't be afraid to pioneer new, progressive, intuitive, and helpful approaches to fighting both injustice and complacency. Don't wait for someone else to think of something so that you can follow. If it bothers you enough, you'll think of something (otherwise you might not actually care all that much).
8.Try to be humble in your argument for no one likes listening to Mr. Bullhorn guy tell them everything they're doing wrong.
9.If you fail to come to conclusions or how to do things differently, end your piece with an invitation to dialogue further with those who are also struggling to sort things out. Perhaps together you can find what you are looking for.
10.If you don't want to do #9 then at least end with something thought provoking to get the mental juices of your reader flowing.

I'm thankful that Eastern has the courage to have Justice in their mission statement as it means they will often face critiques of this nature. I'm also thankful that they put it out there in the open, so that they can be held accountable (hopefully) when they are falling short. I'm thankful that YACHT attempts to do something about homelessness—I'm not sure they think they're doing all they can or are successfully fighting the structures of homelessness—rather than just simply sit back apathetically and hope for bigger and better things post-grad or resolve to do nothing because it isn't going to fix the problem. Something of quality is better than nothing. It's admirable that you're passionate, that much is quite easy to see, but next time you are frustrated or are rushing against a deadline, write something when you're not under that stress (even if that means you don't have something in this issue of the CitiZine.) Consider this: you aren't writing for yourself (that's what a journal or a diary is), but you're writing for a reader. And if you aren't appealing to your reader because you haven't made the time to consider what you're writing, then perhaps it's not worth sharing after all...

Just wanted to share this and let our readers know that we are taking this into consideration and will address this head on.

The CitiZine

1 comment:

  1. Are the rights of LGBT folks included in the curriculum for INST 150/270? Nope. EU has a ways to go. 'Nuff said.