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Brian Judge '11: Greater expectations: the case against indiscrimination

The opposite of discrimination isn't indiscriminateness. In our quest to create an inclusive, pluralistic society, we have abandoned the standards and expectations that give us a vision of how to conduct oneself properly. This isn't an inevitability. I firmly believe that there is a way to hold one another to standards that do not depend on privileges of birth, but determination of spirit. The notion of "proper conduct" is no longer a privilege of birth. It is something that is available to every person who wishes to pursue it.

We all may come from very diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, but I believe that we can all come together in our commitment to similar standards. The purpose of having standards and expectations is to exclude actions, not people. This is what Sean Quigley '10 was railing against in his column ("Appropriate for the occasion," March 17). Looking like a slob, far from being a statement of one's own individuality, as many people can look like slobs in the same way, is just a manifestation of laziness that has permeated our culture. I want to argue for why having a more inclusive society doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing all expectations and norms.

Most of us have discovered at one point or another that it is really fun to push against what we see as people's arbitrary expectations of us. "Why should I eat my broccoli?" But I know I am much better off for abiding by expectations that seemed arbitrary and unfair to me at the time. By blindly tolerating anything (except intolerance), there is no expectation to try to improve oneself. I would hope that Brown can still be the happiest college without also being the most self-satisfied.

Now, we don't have any competing visions for what constitutes a respectable person. A Brown University education is now open to a much broader range of people, but there isn't really a comprehensive notion of what a "Brown University education" really is. It would be a shame for everyone to seal themselves up inside their own little bubbles and affects and to have little concern for the University as a whole. We are all bound to one another by being students at Brown.

The purpose of having a system of rules and mores that we all agree to abide by is to establish some common ground among the wide variety of people who go to school here, not to merely insist on the dominance of one particular group or ideology. The group of people committed to learning and the betterment of the world is not the purview of any one group in particular.

Insisting that people relate to one another by a commitment to a shared set of values and practices isn't necessarily hegemonic. It's worth noting that the picture of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology student body in 1956 that Quigley references was all-male and all-white. It is a lot easier to insist on standards when everyone is from the same ethnic and socioeconomic background. Same rearing, same values. But we have progressed to the point where we can all come together, regardless of background, to form a single community, instead of insisting on the importance of everyone's own individual background.       

It seems like every week there is a lecture that has the words "race," "gender" or "class" in the title. By remaining fixated on the power structures that created these "constructs," we neglect the real possibility for unity and community. I couldn't care less if you are rich or poor, black or white, male or female, etc., if you are a self-centered bore. All that does matter is that you are a passionate and engaging person.

The great sage Emily Post defined manners as "the outward manifestation of one's innate character and attitude towards life." There are plenty of overly snarky examples I could use to illustrate the wisdom of this statement, but I will leave it to you all to decide whether or not this does anything for you. Suffice it to say that I have never heard someone say anything intelligent in class while wearing sweatpants.

If you stand for nothing, you will fall for everything. I can't help but think that GQ was onto something in this regard.

Brian Judge ‘11 would like to see an Emily Post Magazine in The Herald.


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