Muddling the Mind with Education

Jaime Coyne

I wanted to go to a Liberal Arts college. I literally crossed off all universities with the prefix ‘tech-‘ and the word ‘institute’ from my Big Book of Colleges. I wanted that interdisciplinary, try-your-hands-at-everything type of experience. But I do see one downside to picking Liberal Arts: sometimes it leaves you in complete confusion. You find that your head hurts, and you suddenly need to question every thing that was once a staple in your life. Liberal Arts put you in a bit of a crisis.

Between taking Church, State and Law and Western Traditions, religion has come up quite often in my classes this semester. I have received what I believe to be a pretty typical Catholic education – I’ve never actually read the entire Bible, but I always thought I had a good understanding of its most popular stories from going to church and CCD (Sunday School). Through actually reading and discussing parts of the Bible in Western Traditions, I’ve learned that the Bible is incredibly inconsistent, with two different stories of the Creation, possibly many different writers, and even indications of God being plural gods, or both man and woman. It is certainly necessary to read the Bible as a literary work instead of a religious doctrine in the classroom, but such an analysis leaves my head spinning. Suddenly, the Bible is a piecemeal novel of contradicting stories. Jesus is an angry and impatient man with vain and idiotic disciples. I may not be the most fervently religious person, but I at least thought that I had my parables down.

And then there is the place of religion in our society, as my Church, State and Law class discusses. You might go into the class thinking straightforwardly that there should be a complete separation of church and state, or a complete union of the two. It hardly seems possible to leave that class with either of those views intact. There are so many elements to consider, so many exceptions to the rule, so many eloquently written Court opinions that convincingly speak to opposite views. And when you get into court cases, there is the unavoidable question of what the Court has jurisdiction over, and how it can come to its decisions. At some points, the whole history of our country has seemed like a big question mark, and the most honest answer I can manage is, ‘I don’t know!’

Psychology has a nice way of psyching you out, as well. As Professor Kraly told my class, everyone starts to believe they have the disorders as they read the descriptions in the textbook. Hearing which type of people are likely to be more successful, happy, depressed, etc., you can’t help but analyze what type of person you are. Studies seem to indicate that you are going to be a suicidal, obsessive-compulsive, obese, lonely person. I wonder what effect it has on a person to expect certain things will happen to him? Or to think about the effect that thinking about the effect will have? Suddenly my head hurts.

Obviously, I was looking for a diverse education that would make me think when I chose to come to Colgate. It is good to see things from different perspectives, healthy to debate issues. But at times it does feel very overwhelming. Sometimes sticking to the factual, right-and-wrong answers of a math or physics class would be a welcome reprieve from all the endless possibilities that come from other classes. I guess I’ll just have to deal with the crises Liberal Arts throw at me, one at a time. Now, who has a Tylenol?