Columns / Discourse / September 25, 2013

Voice of Reason: Introducing a new year, mind-set

Hello, Knox students and welcome to campus, or back to campus, as the case may be. This is now my fourth year writing this column for TKS. I have changed quite a bit over that time and my column has changed accordingly.

That is, I think, how it should be. Indeed, if I hadn’t gotten any better at writing or reasoning after three years at this school I think I would be justified in asking for my money back. We come here looking to become different, and I daresay, better people than we were before. There is no shame in acknowledging it.

I am an International Relations major, although this column will not focus primarily on international affairs. Partially this is because I realize that most of TKS’s readership finds the intricacies of the de-nationalization of Mexican oil companies far less interesting than I do, but mostly because restricting myself to just one subject area seems rather antithetical to the point of a liberal arts education.

We are here not just to learn about our chosen disciplines, but also a sampling of the other ones. George Kennan, perhaps the preeminent figure America has ever produced in IR, once said that if he were training future diplomats he would require them to read only two books: the King James Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. That seems a bit extreme, but his premise is solid: the fundamentals of education cut across disciplines.

In that vein, this column aims to be an application of a liberal arts education to politics. If you are looking for rewarmed versions of conventional wisdom, there is no shortage of places you can find it. For my part I will try to avoid it. That does not, of course, mean you will never see it. (Just because something is conventional does not mean it is necessarily wrong.)

I don’t identify with either the political right or left. That probably makes me fairly right-wing as far as Knox students go, but there are times that Franklin Roosevelt would be considered fairly right-wing by the standards of this campus. Both sides have something valuable to add to our public discourse and shouting either one down before hearing them out accomplishes nothing.

Most of all, I aim that at the end of reading this column you should think a little differently than you did at the beginning. You do not have to agree with me all of the time, as I will certainly be wrong quite often, just like how everyone who writes about politics (or anything else) will be wrong a good deal of the time. The ones you should listen to are the ones who are aware of it.

I welcome feedback as long as it is constructive. Please note that “dear idiot, ur an idiot” and all variations thereof do not fall under that category. I wish that would not need to be said, but anyone who has ever read an online comments thread should realize it does.

It would be best to end this by simply welcoming everyone to campus once again.

If done right, these four years should be the most mind-expanding of your entire life.
My hope is that this column can end up being a part of that.

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

Tags:  column comment discourse free interdiscipline Knox left-wing open right-wing welcome

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