Embrace the Pain: Living with the Repugnant Cultural Other

5 Feb

When my son was quite young, I took him to our family doctor for a regular check-up, and during the examination the doctor said “Now I need to look for bruises.” I was instantly offended and alarmed: I don’t hurt my child! “No, no,” he said. “I want to see bruises. Because if he doesn’t have a few bruises, that means that he’s not taking the physical risks that he needs to take to develop as he should.” If playing too recklessly can lead a child into trouble, timidity can create its own, very different, troubles.

I have often reflected on what Dr Judge said that day, and even now I apply it to myself – not in terms of physical risk, physical development (that ship has sailed, for me), but in terms of intellectual risk-taking. I see too many people my age, indeed younger than me, who have ceased to take any chances, who have settled into complacency, whose outlook on the world can never receive any bruises because it is never risked on the playing field. I don’t want to be like that – not now, and not ever.

And here we arrive at the heart of the matter: I want to argue – with considerable trepidation, I admit – that the task of the undergraduate student is to embrace this kind of bruising, such pain, and the task of teachers and administrators is, if they can, to structure the game in such a way that that pain doesn’t escalate into harm. If we can manage that, then it’s good for students, good for the university, and good for the society at large. Let me unpack this argument.

If you want to see how Alan Jacobs of Baylor University unpacks this, you can read his entire address here.

 

 

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