Clarkson: Suggested incoming college student reading promotes ‘respect, restraint and responsibility’

Sara Clarkson
Sara Clarkson

Respecting others’ opinions and cultural differences as well as the ethical implications of technology’s advance are a few themes from university-suggested summer reading for students entering as freshmen. The selections intrigued me in light of both local and national news.

The first is one every parent of a young athlete, the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board, our state government, our national government and all ambassadors should read and implement: “Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct” by P.M. Forni, a co-founder of Johns Hopkins Civility Project. This easy-to-read guide was sent to all first-year Wake Forest students as a guide for “respectful interaction.”

Civility, argues the author, is gracious goodness. It entails “an active interest in the well-being of our communities.”

“Being civil means being constantly aware of others and weaving restraint, respect and consideration into the very fabric of this awareness,” he said.

Being civil doesn’t mean that you cannot have an opinion or a conviction or a cause that is dear to you. It just means that you accept and respect that others may have an opposing opinion, conviction or cause and that the greater good is always in sight instead of your own personal ends.

Those ideas come to play in Cornell University’s selection for the incoming class of 2018: “Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio” by Amara Lakhous, a novel of social satire which emphasizes cultural awareness. The nonfiction “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do” by social psychologist Claude M. Steele, is Northwestern University’s offering. It challenges individuals to see outside of themselves beyond the preconceived issues of identity.

Boston College’s incoming freshmen have been directed to read “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. This is a novel — some call it a fable — about a recent college graduate who joins an idealized technology company whose products get more and more intrusive, subtly stripping away the individual’s privacy. Eggers will address Boston College’s freshmen in September.

Incoming first-years at Clemson University are encouraged to read the novel “Machine Man” by Max Berry. In this novel, an engineer loses a leg in an industrial accident and after it is replaced with a prosthetic, he begins tinkering with other artificial prosthetics, and soon things have gotten a little out of control.

National Public Radio host and editor Brooke Gladstone wrote “The Influencing Machine,” which is a history of journalism and the media. It is a graphic book, illustrated by Josh Neufeld, as opposed to a graphic novel, and has been called a “media manifesto.” It is American University’s reading selection for its incoming class of 2018.

“Thank You For Your Service” by David Finkel, named one of the best nonfiction books of 2013, is the University of Delaware’s selection for its freshmen. It looks at a battalion of U.S. military men who have returned from duty in Iraq and what happens to the 20 to 30 percent of the veterans who struggle adjusting to “normal” life in the U.S.

All of these selections ask the reader to think about the world in a larger context, striving to enlarge and challenge, perfect for fall reading, perfect for higher education of any kind.

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