Writing and Thinking 2018
Camilla Bianchi, ‘19
Like every other amazing BHSEC year, 2018 started off with the usual three-day long workshop known as Writing and Thinking. Our school’s 619 students were split up into different classes with people from all four grades and teachers who they might have never had before to engage in seminar-based discussions regarding “dis/agreement.” To fuel these discussions, the faculty compiled what I would argue to be our best anthology so far, filled with scholarly articles, poems, and fiction pieces that related either very closely, or very remotely to this year’s theme. Throughout these wonderful three days, Bard students got a chance to ease their brains into a new semester filled with homework and, for some, college applications, as well as reunite with friends, or meet new ones.
Most will think of “dis/agreement” as a clear-cut theme that mostly tackles the intricate art of debate in relation to our current society. However, numerous workshops took interesting perspectives to discuss this theme, thus exploring it in more abstract ways. For instance, my workshop analyzed “dis/agreement” through the relationship of everything in our society to what is considered to be the norm. Countless other stances were taken, which will be briefly explored below.
Unsurprisingly, one of the first texts included in the anthology, “The Dying Art of Disagreement” by Bret Stephens, tackles “dis/agreement” in a direct way: in the context of debate. In his piece, Stephens argues that society is becoming more and more afraid of disagreement, as seen by the numerous cancellations of University speakers because of their beliefs. This perspective is one of crucial relevance to BHSEC students, as we often find ourselves unwilling to listen to the perspectives of those that might differ in political and moral opinions from us.
“Dis/agreement” also challenges what our society defines as the “good,”“normal,” or “relevant” through ideals that are constantly perpetuated in every aspect of our daily lives. The anthology provided a platform for authors outside of this norm to introduce concepts that challenge it, such as “The Relativity of Wrong” by Isaac Asimov who proposes that the ideas of right and wrong are not as crystal clear as we believe them to be. In addition, this compilation of texts exposed BHSEC students to the effects that these norms have on individuals that find themselves to be outside of them. All of us at some point have felt incapable of conforming to the “agreement” part of “dis/agreement,” an issue that is explored by Candice Carty-Williams in her piece, “Average,” which depicts her journey as a Black woman navigating these norms. I believe that this perspective on society is a necessary one to truly understand our education at BHSEC, as it allows us to comprehend the importance of texts outside of this norm (aka the Western Canon).
Overall, this year’s Writing and Thinking itself took a step out of the norm, thus allowing Bard students to begin the new year with an insight into a new perspective on society that strives to consider what is often overlooked. Hopefully, BHSEC students will find a way to incorporate the teachings of the three-day workshop in their everyday lives, not only academically, but also on a personal level.