Let me start by saying I fully support liberal arts education, and I think discussion of other cultures in a university setting is important. Furthermore, I think our university educational system would be remiss if it did not make students critically consider problems in the world, not just our own country.
These things said, today I found myself in a classroom full of students discussing sex trafficking as it relates to cartels in Mexico. The class consists of privileged (mostly) white young students, myself included. Despite best intentions and usually productive conversation, somehow today we began equating the situation of drug lords and girls kidnapped by the cartels. Suddenly, I was snapped back to the reality that most of these people have no idea what they are talking about and simply want to say something so they get their participation points.
Don’t get me wrong, some comments were genuine–though I consider them misguided nonetheless. The situation of a kidnapped woman forced into sex work and a life she never wanted is not the same as a sicario who decided to join the system instead of fight it. But I digress, my focus in this editorial is misguided critical thinking within college classrooms. We often consider things we have no context for, after all most of us come from white middle-class Midwestern families, so that’s not the problem.
No, the problem is that often we don’t recognize our privilege and lack of knowledge. Then we consider heavy topics and pretend that we are the authorities on the ideas. We ask questions we don’t really care about the answers for. We give answers that are politically correct, and answers that we think others will agree with. No one wants to be wrong. In a different setting, one of the most useful pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is, “Fail is not a bad word. Fail just means you try again.” This is what should be applied to academia, not the mentality that it currently abides.
First things first. I didn’t post yesterday due to extreme motion sickness. Planes and buses are not my friends, particularly for close to 12 hours as a time. So I apologize for not posting an update on my first day in Scotland, but just know I spent the day mostly sleeping or throwing up. Good times.
Today, on the other hand, was excellent. We wandered about Inverness exploring shops and historical cultural spots. Notable on the list were the Inverness Castle, which sits on hill overlooking the city and now doubles as the courthouse, Leakey’s Bookshop, the largest secondhand bookshop in Scotland, the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and exploration of the walk around the River Ness.
We started with breakfast at the hostel, then dispersed throughout the city to explore. The walk along the River Ness led us past churches, through florally effervescent streets, and along the road to a few kilt shops/visitor center. The river had some great views of the city, and the aesthetic of the bridges and streets are what can only be described as European.
Inverness Castle, while closed to the public, provided a citywide overlook and some great architectural shots. Shout-out to Tyler for testing his parkour skills, and to the seagull who is completely un-bothered by human interaction.
Leakey’s book store is set up in an old Gaelic church on Church Street in Downtown Inverness. From the old wood burning fireplace to the metal spiral staircase, its a hard-to-beat aesthetic for cozy secondhand book shopping.
Photos will be added later!
Starting Thursday, two days from now, this blog will serve as a journal for my time in Scotland.
Yes, that’s right, I’m going to Scotland! I will be there with one of my best friends, Sage, in a group from Augustana University. We will be exploring the literary tradition and culture of one of the nations that has shaped history on many fronts.
On the long plane ride over, we will be reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Crofter and the Laird. While there we will be doing other reading along with exploring various cities. I of course will have my camera and have not yet decided whether to do a visual or literary blog, but only time will tell. Look forward to extremely excited editorials about the landscape and contrasting culture of the UK.
Finally, let me say: