The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Letter to the Editor: Give Respect to Get Respect

3 min read

The following letter was written in response to “Seizing Maturity (September 13th, 2007, The Bullet).

Dear Editor:

Alex Rohde’s acerbic column in last week’s Bullet requires a response from students who, like him, demand the highest quality education from this institution, but who, unlike him, have taken the opportunity to develop close, respectful relationships with some of the best professors this university has to offer.

It is possible to do precisely what Mr. Rohde suggests:  take command of our education.

Yet, we have accomplished this not by antagonizing professors or interrupting classes, but by showing (and thereby acquiring) the respect and attention that a predominance of professors at this university deserve.

The thrust of Mr. Rohde’s argument is that “we students have a reason and a means to shape our education.”  We could not agree more with this statement.

We differ strongly, however, with the hostile methods with which Mr. Rohde intends to achieve this goal.

In order to acquire an education, you must seek the guidance of those who are authorities in the fields you wish to explore.
As experts, they are capable not only of empathizing with your skepticism (for they once experienced it as you do), but also of directing you to sources that will aid you in your own search for answers.

Even if they are boring or disorganized as teachers, you will usually find them to be adept scholars, willing and able to discuss matters as deeply as you would wish during their office hours, in chance meetings on campus, or even just over a cup of coffee.

We also note that while Mr. Rohde is an apparently bright and ambitious member of the class of 2011, he has attended school here for no more than three weeks.  His ideas are untempered by the critical appraisal of his peers.

His intellectual mettle remains untested at this institution, and his mind’s contents have yet to be judged by the unmerciful courts of the history of thought, which long ago tried, executed, and buried the corpse of any notion of his that he believes is “original.”  Arrogance abounds in his words.  Still, he admonishes us to “question authority.”

Wise words; but they lack force when wielded by someone so obviously convinced of his own position.  Certainly he does not mean us to question his authority, as evinced by last week’s diatribe against the faculty.

First of all, the problems he identifies are systemic – the members of the faculty are not enemies, and indeed they are often allies if he truly wishes to shape his own education.

If it is a straw man he seeks to blame for the problems of the educational system, he should look elsewhere.

Second of all, we would venture to say that scholarship, in which the faculty engages with each other and with their students, is the dynamic and spirited interrogation of authority in an attempt to weed out the unwarranted and the illogical.

In any event, scholarship is not the unsubstantiated indictment of experts in which he engaged last week.

Question your own authority before you question others’.  Respect for others, the will to listen to and take advantage of the faculty’s knowledge, and some humility before the vastness of what you do not know, are all vital prerequisites for any productive interrogation of authority.

Rebecaa Henderson, Isaac Knowles, and Katie Lawrence are seniors.