Nobles Parents' E-Newsletter

November 2010

Nobles Parents E-Newsletter November 2010

The Road More Traveled by Bill Bussey, Provost

In high school, I was, for some unfathomable reason, selected by the faculty to be one of eight male students to represent the school at a three-day governmental conference called Boy’s State. The other kids selected from my school were the talented cross-the-t’s-dot-the-i’s types with whom I never shared detention. I wondered whether perhaps my indiscretions had been forgiven by the powers-that-be in my school, that perhaps with time a little perspective had seeped in from their end, that maybe they had come around and thought I could see the big picture. Those vain illusions were quickly dashed when soon after my arrival the conference director, who bore a menacing resemblance to Otto Preminger, let me know that he was “keeping an eye on me.” Clearly I needed an ally - and fast.

On my way up to my dorm room, I met a guy from South Portland who seemed pretty sophisticated. He declared that “jazz was the only music,” possessed a full beard and a head of hair that went in a thousand different directions, and flashed a wildly charismatic grin. We arrived a little early and found that although we weren’t roommates, our rooms were just a few doors down from each other. And then I did something that I have never forgotten. I looked at the nametag on my door, saw that my roommate hailed from the unsophisticated little nowhere town of Milo, checked out his hick boots that stood next to our doorway, and then carefully slid my nametag off my door. The kid from South Portland’s roommate hadn’t shown up yet, so it was a done deal. I had my ally, a cool kid who was entertaining, cynical and sophisticated to a degree that piqued my curiosity.

But here’s how it turned out. The cool guy was insufferable, and while he and his buddies from his hometown were bright, quick-witted guys, they treated everyone, including people that I liked, with such condescending disdain that I found myself hanging out elsewhere. And who turned out to be the nicest guy in the dorm? Yup. The guy from Milo, Maine. One more thing: I sensed the guy from Milo knew what I had done with the room switch, and I suspect on some level he knew why, but he did the gracious thing and never called me on it. He also gave me a great place to hang out and let me stay late.

This fall, there’s a lot of talk going on about bullying and what to do about it. It has become a national conversation. Yet I might suggest that an equally egregious social dynamic exists that is every bit as hurtful, yet far more subtle. Too often we allow our own prejudices, often based on few experiences and dominated by our own insecurities, to justify taking the road “more traveled,” the route that allows us to maintain an inner circle of like-minded people, often gathering on familiar territory, without ever considering just how narrow our contact with other parts of society has become and at what cost. Let’s not forget that the knee-jerk assumptions that all of us often employ, the social demarcations that we erect without a second thought, serve for our children as a blueprint for navigating their world. If we want our children be true citizens of the world, then we all must make a concerted effort to connect with those around us in a way that will allow our children to recognize and appreciate “our common humanity and the liberties that bring us together.”

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