Columns / Discourse / March 4, 2009

The next big thing

It’s simple anthropology: when you coexist with a group of any number of people, you develop patterns accordingly. When I was in the high school setting, for instance, I made a habit of complaining about my lack of sleep and that English teacher who wore mismatched shoes. Within my extended family, the common practice at holiday parties is to eat as much dessert as you can and then bemoan your poor sense of discretion. Among my community theatre clan, one must show a strong aptitude for crying on command. Finally, here at Knox, we—the residents of Post 8—have a little ritual of our own. We like to get together at 4 p.m. on weekdays, after a hard day laden with academic rigor and application deadlines. We like to sit back, relax, and watch a little Jeopardy.

Yes, Jeopardy is pretty much the ideal after-school activity. It keeps your brain alert, but without consequence of a wrong answer. It gives us a target—Alex Trebek, the loveable Canadian—to poke fun at and critique, without instigating any hurt feelings, which would, in such a confined environment as Knox, fester like the innards of an eco-clamshell. Basically, it’s an outlet that we can feel good about.

Each one of us has our strengths: the geography nut, the literary bookworm, the pop culture maven, the history buff, the military expert. You name it, we’ve got a practiced adolescent for the topic at hand (I myself am probably the aforementioned pop culture maven, and amongst the other specialists, it tears me up inside that I go to Perez Hilton instead of Charles Gibson for my daily news).

At any rate, it got the wheels turning. Looking at all of us encircling the TV in my dorm room (which I share with the geography nut), our faces all contorted into stares of the deepest concentration, I thought that we must not be too different from the way politics are conducted. Each tough question Trebek dangled before our eyes was met with explosive, and often correct, responses. This—all the passion and the localized, learned minds—this is how the world works.

The actual contestants on Jeopardy have it all wrong. They long for a surface knowledge of every fact, figure, name, and date. It’s an admirable intention, though one that will only ever be profitable in the context of a one-shot game show such as this. I won second place at a Chicago restaurant’s trivia night once, but it was only a prize of fifty bucks, and that won’t buy much more than a subscription to Cosmopolitan.

What I’m saying is, our Post 8 committee is much closer to achieving the effect of real-world global politics. We enlist the best and brightest for very distinct purposes, each question is answered with a fiery, confident declaration, and a moment of indecision on the part of the contestants (in this metaphor, our untrustworthy allies) causes our collective heart to stop. With all our fervor, we are quite like the model UN for a half-hour a day.

What if we took it one step further, though? What if the UN could see the way we not only include the best and brightest into our dorm, but instead include anybody who happens to be interested, ready to throw their hat into the ring? We shout answers, yes, but encourage each other if our answer is incorrect. When we acquire a new fact from the given clues, we raise our eyebrows in interest, eager to learn more about the subject. When our favorite contestant loses, we still come back to the show with the same vitality we’ve always reserved for the time of day when we all truly collaborate. What if the UN, seeking new direction, chose to model itself after us?

We are the Next Big Thing, after all. The Future Generation. And I’d like to think that we’re starting off on precisely the right track.

Marnie Shure

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