The Pilot Editorial

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Agony of culture

One of the most persistent complaints heard on the campus of Buena Vista University has to do with the "forced culture" aspects of the ACES program.

ACES brings a marvelous mix of performers, speakers and the fine arts to campus - often people of national renown who otherwise would be nowhere near a place the size and location of a Storm Lake, Iowa.

The National Theater for the Deaf was a great recent example - a priceless opportunity for all of us who had the privilege to attend. A Native American just taught us about the music and dance of their traditions. A professor and former prof offered a funny feminist play with a point, BVU's own concert band just gave a winter performance for ACES credit. Soon, a young man who survived the street gang scene in LA will appear in ACES to educate listeners to that dangerous lifestyle. The efforts of the ACES program has unquestionably raised the bar on cultural opportunity in northwest Iowa.

And yet with many of the students, it does not seem to be so appreciated. Because they are required to attend a small number of events each year to obtain needed credits, they feel strong-armed into culture. A column in the student paper re-states the whine that at all ACES events, "there won't be many students leaving happy."

The column says there's never anything interesting on the schedule, and the writer would prefer that they be given the credits for watching "enjoyable" movies. It is even theorized that forcing students to go to cultural performances may make them unwilling or unable to enjoy performance art in their future lives. Cultural crippling, that.

Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, and at times, captive audiences will behave as such, which isn't fair to the performers.

But if there wasn't a strong incentive, many student would never bother to be exposed, and important performers might find only an empty auditorium here.

The mission of a university is in part to widen the horizons of its students. BVU has done that well with ACES. Hopefully, some who have dragged into an event for credits have walked out with appreciation, if not enlightenment, for drama, music, dance or current issues.

There may even come a day when they wished they had grabbed more of those opportunities when they were presented to them, free, on a silver platter. The ability to attract some amazing, and some controversial, events makes BVU a notch above its competitor campuses where the evening's activities for some may revolve around PlayStation 2, making small pyramids from spent beer cans or surfing the 'net for impromptu anatomy lessons.

Perhaps it would help if students got "extra" credits for attending cultural events instead of being mandated to fill the seats. Maybe then they could leave happy.

If not, well, perhaps better educated and frowning than blissfully blindered.

Briefly - Another "small" spill from the pork plant - it seems there is one or more every year. Each time the plant is praised for its response, and never punished for the environmental damage. At some point, fines should be warranted. If this community is going to sink millions into a lakefront park, it isn't acceptable for wastewater, animal byproducts or oil to flow down to the showplace. Tyson has announced a multi-million plant upgrade - it might be prudent to add an alternative to an open pipe from plant to lake into that development.