Wednesday, October 14, 2009

myNewSchool


This year, The New School turns 90. Below is my thoughts on this anniversary.
“Within every cynic you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” – George Carlin

Life is full of clichés that define how we understand reality; ultimately, we decide which ones to accept or reject. Thus, as educated and “engaged global citizens” we must not only question clichés, but challenge those we perpetuate. I suppose, a strong cliché for me is “The system is broken.”

As an undergrad, this cliché resonated loudly in my mind. I wanted to “change the world for the better.” Although the system was “broken”, I truly believed socially conscious people could build better and more just systems. Accordingly, when I heard about The New School’s “progressive history” and founding mission “to create a place where global peace and justice were more than theoretical ideals”, I enthusiastically applied to the New School for Social Research and saved money for my move from Maine to Manhattan. But before leaving home, my friends of a “hippy”, “punk”, and “anarchist” persuasion justly asked how I planned on “changing the world by reading Hegel?” …Good question and I knew an answer wasn’t going to come easy. In fact, after years of wondering “what the hell was this all for?” I realize, they were correct – real change doesn’t come through old philosophical theories or from heady discussions about Robespierre at cocktail receptions. Sure, theory provides a foundation, but it is through practice and application that a broken system can be fixed.

My brief six years at The New School have been rewarding and challenging. I’ve made many friends and feel honored to work at an organization that educates and encourages open and free discourse. Along my academic journey, I’ve earned an MA in Liberal Studies, a Certificate in Screenwriting, and am currently earning a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. Thus, I continue to move (perhaps like the New School itself) away from theory and toward practice. Whatever I do, I know I still want to “change the world for the better”, but I never want to become the aloof academic, who narcissistically believes I’m making the world a “better place” by only associating with those within the safe walls of an academic institution.

Admittedly, it’d be disingenuous to assert I’ve “changed the world for the better.” Or even that I believe The New School remains true to its history. Somewhere along the line that stretches back to the day I walked into 65 Fifth Avenue as an idealistic student, to where I sit now as an administrator behind a desk—I know, I lost something. Perhaps, I’ve become a cliché? Sure I’ve tossed aside the Hegel, but for what? …Fukuyama? This may not be “the end of history” for civilization or The New School, but sometimes it feels like it and it sucks to admit - the crooks won. The good guys lost.

Indeed, “the system’s broken”. But instead of sulking lets start solving as we continue to change as individuals and as a school. Accordingly, I still expect “myNewSchool” to be one of the few places left where any repairs to this broken system can occur.