Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The War on Cool

The shorter shorty rode his two wheeler without training wheels for the first time this weekend. You could tell he was nervous and asked at first that we not remove them. But some gentle coaxing from TheWife and he agreed to give it a try and it was just a few minutes later that I let go of the bike and he rode by himself for several yards. I gave the obligatory "You did it!" and he had that smile we all know, the "I'm so proud of myself, oh my god I didn't think I could do that, wow" smile. It is authentic joy. It is the opposite of cool.

I look at that smile and then I look at my college students. There is a tyranny of the cool. Authentic displays of emotion are "so gay" and are actively quelled...usually.

In my philosophy of science class, I have a critical mass of students who love science and who have decided that it is a geek-safe space. They just don't care about what the cool kids think of them. Man, were they into it yesterday in talking about Thomas Kuhn's notion of paradigm shift and whether there could be an extra-paradigmatic notion of rationality sufficiently robust to sustain a meaningful concept of scientific progress. It reminded me of the bike. It was so much fun.

So, I'm declaring war on cool again. Cool sucks. Cool keeps us from engaging with each other and the world. Cool keeps down the smart, the strange, the interesting.

But the Heathers have the social capital and are not about to give it up. I need strategy here people. How do we launch our attack? How do we make authenticity acceptable?