Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"Virginia Tech"

Maybe this is a bit abstract and irrelevant given the sadness of what happened at VT, but I'm struck by the thought that our cultural lexicon will be forever changed by this. When you say "Columbine," people do not think "town in Colorado where three members of Big Head Todd and the Monsters grew up." They think "school shootings." In fact, google "Columbine, CO" and you'll see that the first hit is a wikipedia article on the Columbine High School massacre, second is an article about the city itself.

So I'm left with a sad thought for the university. Who would choose to move to Columbine, CO to attend high school there, given what it signifies? I've never been there myself, and I'm sure current students find this line of thinking a tiresome and obnoxious. And the infamous school library has been demolished and rebuilt. Nevertheless, wouldn't you find it a bit creepy to walk the halls of that school knowing what had happened there?

So what will happen to VT? Will it suffer the same semantic fate, forever redefined to mean a place of killing rather than a place of learning? If so, I would expect enrollment and application rates to suffer, at the least. For better or for worse, things are defined by what happens to them as much as what they do themselves. And unfortunately, we don't have all that much control over what happens to us.

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