Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Embrace uncertainty

Richard Stengel

Stengel urges graduates to acknowledge doubt but get in the game

At a time when any kind of information is just a few clicks away, critical thinking is more crucial than ever, Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine, told the Class of 2011 during Wheaton’s 176th Commencement in May.

In today’s mass media and across the spectrum of American politics, Stengel said he sees “an epidemic of certainty—people who are absolutely sure that they know they are right, and I find this a little irksome.... One of the things I am certain about is that certainty and democracy don’t go together.”

History is filled with leaders who know they are right, he said. “Who are they? Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi. Totalitarianism is the place for certainty, not democracy.”

Advising the 376 graduates to beware of ideas and theories that cannot be tested or evaluated, Stengel encouraged them to continue to value knowledge, which is more than a collection of easily accessible information. [Read more...]

Long-held passions fuel scholarly pursuits

This academic year Wheaton students won numerous prestigious national scholarships and awards, including Fulbrights, a Watson Fellowship and a Projects for Peace grant. Each of them is pursuing work based on long-held passions. Here are some of the winners:

Amy Broome ’11

Amy Broome '11Amy Broome ’11, an international relations major from St. Johnsbury, Vt., won a Fulbright Scholarship to Oman, where she will research the ways in which foreign tourism there shapes and changes modern Omani identity. At Wheaton, Broome pursued a passion for languages that began with her study of Latin at age 11. She started with Arabic and Italian in her freshman year and later added Mandarin Chinese. In her junior year, she spent one semester in Beijing and one in Cairo, where she sharpened her Arabic. She notes that the increasing numbers of foreign visitors to the once-isolated Sultanate of Oman have brought “new cultures, ideas and languages with them—novelties that undoubtedly affect Omanis and Omani society at large.” By studying the effects of cross-cultural interactions, she hopes to paint “a comprehensive picture of how the influx of foreign travelers affects a society’s perceptions of self and of the outside world.” She also hopes to analyze her findings “in a way that fosters wider intercultural understanding.”

 

Kate Cronin ’11

Katie Cronin '11Kate Cronin ’11, of Baton Rouge, La., will take her lifelong fascination with the written word and the art of storytelling to Argentina, where she, as a Fulbright scholar, will spend the year teaching English and conducting independent research on the country’s vibrant cinema industry. She will be assigned to teach English to students who are themselves training to be English teachers. Cronin attributes her appreciation for the structure and power of language to her parents, both of whom are English teachers. “Stories are my favorite thing in the world,” she says. “When I was a little girl I hated art museums. My mom was clever enough to figure out that if she just told me the stories of the pictures—Bible stories, the myths and the historical circumstance that inspired the paintings—I would be smitten, and I was.”