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Questions, questions, questions

jmorgant's picture

“…No group stands alone, nor even in a simple relation to more dominant other groups, but always in relation to the wider system of which all groups, dominant and minority, are a part.”


McDermott and Varenne describe culture as a set of collective norms rather than individual behaviors. Since our last class, I’ve been thinking about what is “normal” – the authors describe assumption that culture is universal as fundamentally flawed because that results in the perception that those who do not confine to those norms are missing something, in effect, “disabled.” The concept of “health” is defined as being “free from illness or injury,” and the origin of the word is related to “whole” – but then, most people are never “healthy” or “whole.” Is it “normal,” then, for the body to be “unhealthy” or not “whole?” Then why do shows like “Britain’s Missing Top Model” exist? Where do we draw the lines between which injuries/illnesses/disabilities are “normal” and which stray from the norm? Does it matter whether or not they are hidden, or how common they are? But then, how do we know how common they are if they are hidden? Normalcy is driven by perception, and, I would argue, in contrast to McDermott and Varenne’s arguments, these perceptions are individual rather than collective, based on one’s own experiences and diffracted upon their own world.


Reading the assigned literature for this week, I continued to reflect on my job as an interviewer of prospective students for admissions at HC. While I believe that Haverford takes a unique approach to admissions (and, in relation to other processes, fairer) – making decisions by consensus, reading every single application twice, by different people – it’s struck me that HC is equipped only to help a certain subgroup of young people “succeed.” In the admissions process, students are not (only) evaluated by their individual progress; they are compared to one another. When interviewing successive students, I find it incredibly difficult to refrain from comparing them to one another in my mind. It’s a shame that for many students, college admissions (and rejections) become a measure of one’s worth – and I will continue to emphasize to high school students in my interviews and on tours that the most important thing is that they challenge themselves individually and continue to strive for personal excellence, rather than compare themselves to others…