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The Fishwick Column


Article by Ben Vester

I often find myself paralyzed in intellectual discussion, unable to enhance the conversation with an insightful comment or a reasonable critique. Despite my desire to offer a unique understanding of the issue, I feel sluggish and incompetent in my attempts to do so, even when I address topics of which I possess a strong interest – in my case, politics and economics.

This inability is a major source of concern for me. The state of the world today intensifies my concern. We live in a time of significant challenges. These problems are multifaceted and complex. They demand that we perform careful analysis and consider every aspect and residual effect. And, more than ever before, they demand that we apply the knowledge we have acquired over millennia of problem-solving. Successfully resolving them will symbolize a triumph of wisdom, skill and nuance.

Unfortunately, this need for wisdom and nuance finds itself received by a generation unprepared to meet its requirements. Our attention spans have been degraded by our smartphones, with all its intentional hooks and the constant connection to our social networks. The ability to choose your source of news and its delivery as notifications on our smartphones, a new and unprecedented means of attaining information, leaves us incapable of synthesizing the information we receive critically.

This failure prevents us from developing an understanding or approach to critical issues. Rather, we accept the position that society assigns us, unable to devote the time or energy of thought to the disseminate important elements of an issue.

I am no exception.

My attendance at a liberal arts college is the first step towards addressing this crucial shortcoming. In fact, it is a primary component of the mission of Roanoke College to facilitate a transformation within ourselves in this regard.

Our experience of higher education at the College is meant to help us develop the tools necessary to understand the complexity of a given issue, cultivate an opinion on it, and allow that opinion to inform our approach to it.

Nevertheless, I want to supplement my classwork by honing the skills I gain in environments of open discourse.

For students possessing a similar desire to improve, I recommend the Fishwick Literary and Debate Society at Roanoke College.

Our constitution professes a commitment to the intellectual empowerment of the students of the College. In Fishwick, members find a community of their peers who seek to employ the skills they are learning. This community and the opportunities provided through it will serve as a complement to our college careers, offering the perfect practice before we begin our careers as the decision makers in a world in desperate need of guidance.