Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

College Students Make Leap to ‘Culture’

Here in the estuarial waters of college lie challenges galore: challenges stemming from Whitman’s academic rigor, from varied extracurricular activities and from entering into the broad plot arc of grappling with impending “adult world” civic and fiscal responsibilities. Yet another challenge is evident, too, and can be seen when first-years proclaim they only drink “microbrews,” or when other Whitties work to appear refined or learned in their tastes: the challenge of bridging oneself into that other sector of adult world––what some like to call “culture,” or Culture with a Capital C, or––if they so dare––fancy italicized culture. The other day I decided to round up some answers and find out what “culture” means to my fellow students.

“Being cultured in North Texas to a 45-year-old man means wearing a bolo tie to an executive dinner. It doesn’t mean the same thing it does in New York,” said sophomore Paul Prevou.

Senior Aaron Zalman pointed to the merely performative nature of what some consider “culture.”

“You can read stuff on Pitchfork.com and throw it into conversation and have no idea what you are talking about,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, Whitties seem to shy away from exclusionary definitions of culture, and would rather emphasize the notions of varying perspectives and contexts.

Sophomore Audrey Kelly favored a broad definition.

“Someone with high culture enjoys art and literature and other mediums of expression,” she said.

Despite the sincere and typically Whittie nature of these statements, I couldn’t shake the thought that somehow these statements were, I don’t know, plebeian. If, for my journalistic purposes, Whitman were a tank labeled “Culture” in the shadows of some sinister laboratory, I would have to seek out the writhing tentacled brain floating at the tank’s core. With that in mind and inquisitive journalistic spirit in hand, I headed over to the Fine Arts House to learn more.

“Let’s put some tunes on to get in the mood, because when you’re cultured you like to get in the mood,” said sophomore FAH resident Josh Tacke at the start of our exchange. “I think culture is an appreciation for quality things … you know how it’s ‘you are what you eat?’ Well, you are what you read. You are what you listen to … I think it ultimately comes to taste. I think someone who is cultured is graceful, and has really good taste.”

“I think it makes you a much more interesting person,” said sophomore Sabra Jaffe. “I don’t think everyone has to be cultured in the same things. It’s not that some things are more valuable than others … As long as each individual is doing their own part [and] is aware of what they are interested in, then they will contribute back to the community in their own valuable way.”

Sophomore Molly Streeter, the final FAH resident I spoke with, took care to articulate what she thought were the limits of the word.

“I’m more forgiving because I don’t think it’s the most defining feature in a person if they are cultured or not,” she said.

Although Streeter was about to depart for the Walla Walla Symphony, she shared one last thought.

“I know tons of wonderful people who would be considered rednecks instead of ‘cultured’ if you were to put them in a label … it’s more important if a person values culture, rather than if they embody it,” she said.

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