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The brain above the scarf

ColinOpinionThere are only a select few people on this campus who knew Scarf Boy in his pre-scarf days. There is a faint and distant memory in the minds of some Brainerd folk about the young man who used to roam the halls of Brainerd High School, neck exposed for the world to see. He was still pretty happy and energetic, but his scarf collection, among other things, was still in the closet.

Without his scarves, we cannot really call him Scarf Boy, can we?

Boy was still involved in choir and other activities, but Boy had another passion that would be discarded once he came to college. He loved to debate. Boy was on the debate team for four years, diligently researching and preparing cases. He matched himself against the formidable St. Francis debate team and could not escape the adrenaline rush of matching intellect against intellect and seeing who came out on top.

Debate team and choir? Clearly, Boy was really cool in high school…

When his transformation at Concordia began, Boy felt compelled to hide this part of him. Being happy and bubbly was a better way to make friends than being cynical and critical of the world. While no one ever told Boy to stop thinking critically, no one seemed to presume he would. He was not expected to be intelligent because he was happy, bubbly and gay. His character and worth were defined by his sexuality and scarves rather than his intellect.

Plot twist: I am still Scarf Boy, and I have always felt intellectual engagement in my classroom settings here at Concordia. However, I am now proud to say that I consistently employ critical thinking in every activity I participate in.

My desire to engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogue has come back in full force my senior year. Through my position within Student Government Association, I find myself giddy at the opportunity to verbally spar with other members of the Forum. They have their own opinions, and that is great; but I have my own opinions, which are better. Just kidding! This opportunity to engage in crucial conversations provides all parties a chance to grow in their understanding, resulting in comprehensive outcomes that can inherently benefit the student body.

I also reach my intellectual fulfillment on the speech and debate team. In this environment, we are consistently pushed to engage in the affairs of the world and get pissed about the things that deserve our anger. Afterwards, most importantly, we are challenged to reflect on what we can actually do about it. We go to tournaments in which we perform pieces that demonstrate our passions, and we see what passions other people experience. This passion exchange results in a more holistic knowledge of the world and each individual’s place in it.

This desire to be engaged is not limited to classes or extracurricular activities, however. I am no longer afraid to engage in dialogue at any and every turn. If you use the word “retarded,” I will tell you the reasons why it is hurtful. If you say that test totally raped you, I will inform you about those you are affecting with your rhetoric.  Never in a mean way, but in a way to ensure that both of us leave with a greater understanding of one another.

Progressive change does not stem from complete agreement; it stems from discord and the dialogue that accompanies it. I know none of us have reached our full potential, so it would be a waste to miss out on these opportunities to think critically. The now-cliché mantra of Being Responsibly Engaged in the World demands that we be strong enough to challenge the status quo and flexible enough to learn from it.


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