Chamseddine and Smith: Get Smart(er)

by Reem Chamseddine and Andres Smith | 7/2/15 6:59pm

Dartmouth students, like college students almost anywhere, are busy. It seems like everyone at Dartmouth is constantly embroiled in something or another for a class, team or performance group. Sometimes, even, they’re too busy too keep up with the news. Although we would consider most of our classmates very intelligent, one could make the argument that we are a great deal less aware of current events and pending issues than students at other schools. Perhaps it’s our isolation in the beautiful mountains of New Hampshire, or the time and emphasis that we place on very Dartmouth-specific activities, that leads to us being more insulated than, say, young people at a school in New York City. As fun and important as all of our Dartmouth activities are, more of an effort needs to be made to “break the bubble” and become more acutely aware of current events. College is a great time to learn, develop interests and get coffee with friends, and we need to take this time to leverage these opportunities.

One of the most important purposes of college is for young people from diverse backgrounds to get together and broaden their horizons, growing from naïve teenagers to young adults who are beginning to understand their place in the world. An aware, politically-engaged citizenry can make more educated decisions regarding its government and elected officials. Terren Klein ‘17, who keeps up with the news through the Skimm daily newsletter and Google News, explains why this task is important.

“Given that voter turnout is significantly lower among our age group, maybe if we kept up with national news we would feel more inclined to cast our vote,” Klein said.

Additionally, keeping up with the news allows students to think about the real world and the very few issues that do not come up in regular conversation. Patricia Bai ‘17 echoed Klien’s statement. She said that she believes it is too easy to get caught up and forget that there is a whole world outside of Hanover.

“We are only here for four years, and the purpose of college is to prepare us for the world after college,” Bai said.

Finally, it is also important to keep with the news out of intellectual curiosity. As a government major, Hannah Solomon ‘17 said she believes that it is important to know about current events. Many of us are going to be in positions where we can lead and exert a good deal of influence, and it is naïve to think that we can do so effectively without understanding the most important issues that shape our world. One Dartmouth student stated that many students read the news, particularly the Wall Street Journal, in order to do well in professional interviews.

Dartmouth students claim to value news generally, however, many do not find the time to read it on a regular basis. For instance, Klein said that there exists “a direct negative correlation between how much I keep with the news and how much work I get in my classes.”

It is also worth noting that in this day and age, news sources have become so diverse and appeal to such specific niches that we as consumers can pick and choose the exact kinds of news that we are exposed to based on our interests. For example, because of my (Andres’) massive interest in entertainment news and the latest developments in everything “geek” I get almost all of my relevant news from places like The Nerdist and Indiewire. While this “designer news” does allow people to get more in depth into topics about which they are passionate, it also leads to reasonably intelligent young opinion writers who cannot tell you the first thing about the battle against the Islamic State, but know exactly how Jimmy Buffett landed a cameo in “Jurassic World” (2015).

It is very easy for a Dartmouth student, especially one who is heavily involved on campus, to become insulated. We need to make more of an effort to set aside time for self-improvement through an understanding of national and international current events, and not just those we’re interested in.