Oberlin Blogs

Hitting the Nail on the Head

January 16, 2011

Prof. Steve Volk

Long a fan of "The Daily Show," fully accustomed to receiving my news late at night, four days a week, and deep fried in irony, I had been tuning in with anticipation to see how Stewart would handle the Arizona rampage. Humor, after all, doesn't mix well with gunfire. I wasn't disappointed as his first show after the shootings featured a fully improvised and very serious reflection on the events of the previous Saturday. In the days after, he regained his normal comedic balance. By Thursday (Jan. 13), he noted that, five days after the shootings, commentators across the spectrum were roundly praising President Obama's speech in Tucson delivered the night before. The President, Stewart observed, was America's mourner-in-chief and inspirer-in-chief. Pundits from across the political spectrum, he asserted, could agree on the power of Obama's words...for at least 2-3 minutes. Then he rolled his trademark commentarista mashup, with each talking head singing Obama's praises until it was cut short by the discordant clip from Fox News' Michelle Malkin which insinuated, "But you have to question the timing of his speech." At that point, Stewart cut in: "No, you don't; you don't [pause for emphasis] have to question the timing. You're not a primitive nematode... You [Malkin] have a choice. You went to Oberlin." Boom!

I always enjoy hearing Oberlin mentioned in the news, even the fake news, but I was particularly pleased with this Daily Show moment. There, in eight words, Stewart summed up what we, as teachers, hope to accomplish: You went to Oberlin; you can think your way through complicated (or, for that matter, not so complicated) issues, and, because of that, you have choices. You don't have to accept as gospel truth what the pundits say without inviting your brain to the table; you don't have to automatically end up where your persuasions would normally carry you; you don't have to follow whatever crowd you run with. You have a choice in this matter because you have been a part of an educational process that has given you the wherewithal to think things through. Maybe we should reflect on those who have not been so fortunate - or those, like Malkin, who seemingly reject an education designed to highlight context and ambiguity and rather assert that there is only one right answer for every question posed...and they know that answer. But for now I'm more interested in design concepts. How do we make Stewart's takedown our new motto: You Have a Choice. You Went to Oberlin.

Similar Blog Entries