Oberlin Motto Values Individual

To the Editors:

I was horrified to read the interview with Nancy Dye in last week’s Review, where she unashamedly declared her disagreement with Oberlin College’s proud, achievement-oriented motto: Think one person can change the world? President Dye’s notion that “anything worth doing or anything that needs to be changed is best dealt with through collective action” completely disregards the most potent instrument of change that can ever exist: the individual.
Individuals can change the world, because only they can observe, judge, decide, and act on the basis of rational values. Real heroes are men and women who think for themselves and are true to reason and achievement, rather than remaining passive viewers of the world.
There are many examples of such heroes who have inspired and changed the world — Galileo and Copernicus who were shunned for being loyal to the truth rather than an orthodox Catholic Church, entrepreneurs such as Henry Ford and Bill Gates who enabled modern civilization to reach previously unimaginable pinnacles, freedom fighters such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. who struggled for individualism and personal freedom. Throughout history, it has always been individuals who have had the integrity to advocate objective and rational ideas that have changed the world.
The individual is, in fact, the only physical entity that can act effectively to achieve success. It was Michelangelo who sculpted David; Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin; Shakespeare who wrote Macbeth; Edison who invented the light bulb.
These were individuals who used their mental powers to innovate, to produce, to accomplish.
While collaboration and trade between individuals can be an invaluable interaction, a collective is just that – a collection of individuals. “Society” is not some higher self-sustaining entity. It is comprimised of individuals, each of whom can think and act for themselves – and thus work for the changes that advance human civilization.
A Collective cannot make any decisions except those made by its members; a collective cannot take action on its own, unless undertaken by individual members.
A collective certainly could not write Beethoven’s fifth symphony, nor develop a theory as powerful as Darwinian evolution.
The most fundamental purpose and goal of education is to inculcate students with the ability to think in a critical and rational manner – as innovative individuals, not merely as members of a group.
It is only by thinking for ourselves that we can make a difference and certainly, yes, change the world. That this college’s President rejects such a fundamental ideal of education and flagrantly downplays the role of individuals is, frankly, a rather scary proposition to me.

–Malini Kochhar
College sophomore

September 27
October 4

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