February 6, 2013 | Tagged kobrant; literacy; Dickinson; cultural literacy; red devil | 2 Comments
Last summer, while working as a writing associate for Dickinson’s Summer Institute for International Students, one of my students asked me where he could find a fake ID. As an employee of the college, I obviously didn’t answer him. Nevertheless, his question prompted me to consider the implications of what he was asking.
The purpose of the Institute was to not only to instruct international students in American writing techniques, but to also prepare them for adjusting to and thriving in American collegiate life. I know the student who asked me this was a big fan of American television and I wondered if that was how he had become culturally aware of alcohol on college campuses. Perhaps he felt that one of the easiest ways to fit into life at Dickinson would be to engage in alcohol use with his peers. In that sense, though he certainly asked the wrong person for help in his endeavor, I think he was very culturally literate.
Dickinson certainly has its own college culture surrounding it, and with that, its own cultural literacy as well. Alcohol is absolutely a part of this culture, though not its defining characteristic, and certainly not one that Dickinson intentionally sets.
There are certainly some areas in which Dickinson tries to make its students culturally literate, such as environmental affairs. During my orientation week alone, I could barely keep track of how many times the word “sustainability” was used. Recycling, anxiety about printing allotment, and bringing a reusable water bottle to class: these are all activities that show how culturally literate students have become in the Dickinson climate. Along with that, I’m sure we all know exactly what is meant when we hear the phrase “Engage the world.” Immediately, we think about faraway places and global issues, since those images have been drilled into our minds since our first days here.
People outside of the Dickinson culture would not understand our connection to these sayings. They wouldn’t understand why we Dickinsonians roll our eyes and laugh whenever we hear the word “sustainable,” no matter the context. The international student in search of a fake ID most likely wanted desperately to fit into a new and intimidating college culture. No doubt he felt on the brink of breaking into our Dickinson bubble, which at times can be very exclusive. Being culturally literate at Dickinson is definitely one of the first steps to being a true Red Devil.