Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Caught in the ACT: a case for reflection

<e’s no need to repeat the well-worn statement, “Carleton students are busy.” Such a small word cannot begin to encapsulate the amount that we take on. The students who try to balance their schedules with volunteering find liberation. Whether through a one-time opportunity, like working with Thursday’s Table at the Community Action Center Food Shelf, or through an ongoing commitment as mentor, tutor, ally, etc., Carls breaking out of the bubble often see themselves as breaking out of an academic mindset as well. We address immediate and tangible problems in community members lives while allowing our brains much needed rest.

Perhaps, due to the influence of this view of volunteerism as an extracurricular or, to use a more loaded and risky word, “recreational” activity,  reflection – the critical thinking that occurs before, during and after the volunteer experience – takes on a negative connotation or altogether gets pushed aside. It occurs on all sides, not just among busy collegiate volunteers, but among their busy peer leaders, their busy institutional leaders and even their busy community partners, who sometimes just need someone to come in and get the job done.

Regardless of the faults of busy people, the fact remains that a case for reflection is a hard one to sell, because it involves stopping and thinking, which seems directly opposed to the speed of Carleton life. It feels inefficient, challenging, unnecessary, maybe not engaging enough and therefore, inconsequential. I think this is greatest misapprehension of reflection’s purpose.

Stopping and thinking are central to Carleton academics and the intensive liberal arts process. What seems presently inefficient, filling out a mid-term evaluation during class time, for example, can be forwardly effective in reiterating the course’s direction, drawing your professor to specific challenges the students are facing, and pushing you to think about your own strengths and weaknesses. What seems presently challenging, like creating an outline of a research paper, might lead to organization and focus, which allows you to more easily pinpoint flaws in your argument where more research will be necessary. What seems presently unnecessary, the weekly study group meeting you’d rather skip, has the potential to build confidence in each member and a supportive community – less time is spent cramming in the material right before an exam and you have a group to celebrate with afterwards.

We participate in acts of reflection everyday in our academics because they help us produce work we can be proud of, through reciprocal relationships with our professors, peers and selves. It’s problematic when our interactions in Northfield, Faribault, the Twin Cities and beyond, which tackle real world issues, lack this same thoughtfulness and reciprocity. I think the last challenge, providing reflection opportunities that are engaging enough for Carls, will be a large part of ACT’s future initiatives. But they will fail without volunteers’ willingness to recognize the essential nature of reflection in working towards a self-sustainable community, rather than a “get the job done,” college-serviced one.  Moving forward will take a lot of stopping and thinking.

– Morgan Holmes, on behalf of the ACT Center

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *