Motto Values Individual
To the Editors:
I was horrified to read the interview with Nancy
Dye in last week’s Review, where she unashamedly declared
her disagreement with Oberlin College’s proud, achievement-oriented
motto: Think one person can change the world? President Dye’s
notion that “anything worth doing or anything that needs to
be changed is best dealt with through collective action” completely
disregards the most potent instrument of change that can ever exist:
Individuals can change the world, because only they can observe,
judge, decide, and act on the basis of rational values. Real heroes
are men and women who think for themselves and are true to reason
and achievement, rather than remaining passive viewers of the world.
There are many examples of such heroes who have inspired and changed
the world — Galileo and Copernicus who were shunned for being
loyal to the truth rather than an orthodox Catholic Church, entrepreneurs
such as Henry Ford and Bill Gates who enabled modern civilization
to reach previously unimaginable pinnacles, freedom fighters such
as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. who struggled for
individualism and personal freedom. Throughout history, it has always
been individuals who have had the integrity to advocate objective
and rational ideas that have changed the world.
The individual is, in fact, the only physical entity that can act
effectively to achieve success. It was Michelangelo who sculpted
David; Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin; Shakespeare
who wrote Macbeth; Edison who invented the light bulb.
These were individuals who used their mental powers to innovate,
to produce, to accomplish.
While collaboration and trade between individuals can be an invaluable
interaction, a collective is just that – a collection of individuals.
“Society” is not some higher self-sustaining entity.
It is comprimised of individuals, each of whom can think and act
for themselves – and thus work for the changes that advance
A Collective cannot make any decisions except those made by its
members; a collective cannot take action on its own, unless undertaken
by individual members.
A collective certainly could not write Beethoven’s fifth symphony,
nor develop a theory as powerful as Darwinian evolution.
The most fundamental purpose and goal of education is to inculcate
students with the ability to think in a critical and rational manner
– as innovative individuals, not merely as members of a group.
It is only by thinking for ourselves that we can make a difference
and certainly, yes, change the world. That this college’s
President rejects such a fundamental ideal of education and flagrantly
downplays the role of individuals is, frankly, a rather scary proposition