The One who Felt Bullied
It was a pleasure to read about the legacy of English 1 (“Amherst English: An Appreciation,” Summer 2013). But a statistical detail in Rand Cooper’s accurate portrait took me aback:
Yet for every student who felt bullied there were three who felt challenged to rise to the occasion, spurred on by what one student called “this ‘we-are-tearing-you-down-so-that-you-will-put-yourself-back-together’ attitude.”
The quotation, I assume, is from Robin Varnum’s book Fencing with Words. The arithmetic I take to be Cooper’s, and I take issue with it.
Like Cooper, I had John Cameron for English 11 in the mid-1970s. I was the one who felt bullied.
The only thing I knew for sure in the fall of 1974 was: I do not belong at Amherst College. The epigones of English 1 may have “spurred on” some, teaching their privileged, entitled, well-prepared freshmen that they weren’t as smart as they thought. The maddening mystery—What do these professors want?—didn’t teach me anything and reinforced my sense that I didn’t belong.
That sentiment is not uncommon among first-year students at Amherst, especially now, because (I hope) more students arrive at Amherst “less-well-prepared.” I’m glad the era of English 1 is over.
Paul Statt ’78
Strange Cover Choice
Strange choice for the rear cover of “Summer 2013”!
Bonfire photo from Amherst College Archives and Special Collections. Farm photo by Rob Mattson.
Those of us who survived two wars subject to the draft and have made longtime contributions to the “fairest college” are depicted as none other than fun-loving participants in the annual lighting of the bonfire, whereas current students are shown as serious organic farmers. This is like depicting the students of today as gathered around a communal “bong.”
David K. Winslow ’53
Following the Cable
I was delighted to read the interview with Andrew Blum ’99 about his tracing the Internet through its sub-surface labyrinth (“Behind the Glowing Screen,” Spring 2013). That tends to confirm my suspicion that the system is indeed finite, with not-unlimited capacity. The discourse jargon suggests otherwise, such as the references to “the Cloud,” where limitless bits of data supposedly can be stored forever. The Cloud actually is, or are, big black boxes tucked away in remote buildings, and like everything else eventually will fill to capacity. When that point of collapse is reached, we may find the first-class letter gets to its destination quicker. Hold on to your “forever stamps.”
W.G. Sayres ’53
Another Self-Interested Idealist
The Common, the Amherst-based print and online literary magazine focusing on a strong sense of place, is honored to partner with the visionary Amherst College Press (“Librarians Will Lead the Revolution,” Winter 2013). While ACP will publish scholarship and The Common publishes fiction, essays, poetry and art, the two new, idealistic ventures share core values that distinguish them from run-of-the-mill presses. Foremost is the emphasis on editing, which librarian Bryn Geffert calls “the last great bulwark against slipping standards.” In 2012, Vanity Fair editor and Amherst board chair Cullen Murphy ’74 told Amherst that every editor shares “faith in the power of the written word. It’s not just the power to communicate. Even more fundamentally, the very process of writing is essential to the process of thinking.” At The Common, I mentor Amherst student interns in all aspects of the editorial process.
Like ACP, The Common is “at once self-interested and altruistic.” The magazine’s self-interest is reflected in seeking to better understand our human place in the world while training a future generation of readers and editors. The benefit of this effort, and of the scholarly works to be produced by ACP, extends to underserved readers and thinkers around the world who are able to access not only quality literature but also an important ongoing conversation.
Jennifer Acker ’00
Acker is editor of The Common.
Social Media Posts
“Spot-on piece about @AmherstCollege English profs and the house style in current alum magazine. Took many of their classes, back in the day.” Ted Loos ’91, via Twitter
“There will be a slow line in that bathroom.” Jane Halling, via Facebook
“The summer issue of the alumni mag was in my mailbox one minute, in my hands the next, & devoured during lunch. Excellent!” Gregory Campeau ’11, via Twitter
“One alum to another, can I send you a sandwich or something?” Kester Allen ’97E, responding to Campeau.
The Summer 2013 article on John Potter ’68 misidentified the place in which he spent Thanksgiving during his year at sea. It was Marblehead, Mass.
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