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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Species of Carleton

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All college students know that each major connotes a certain prejudice, gait, manner of speaking, vocal pitch, habit (or lack thereof) of talking to oneself, level of focus, hairstyle, manner of dress, choice of notebook storage facility (satchel, backpack, etc.), daily routine, and perhaps a specific highly frequented spot on campus. As a sort of field guide to identifying these easily noticeable stereotypes, I give you a highly nuanced “Carl’s Companion to Finding and Watching Backyard Liberal Arts College Majors”. The guide is divided into five sections, the Political Science major, the Philosophy major, the Economics major, the Environmental Science (ENTS, of course) major, and the Linguistics major, each section giving a brief to unnecessarily lengthy overview of the species’ fascinating life history.

The Political Science major’s mode of locomotion is an ungainly gallop. His satchel is in a constant state of limbo as he races down the hill towards Goodhue. His lips appear to be mouthing words at lightning speed, but as he passes in the other direction, a few indiscernible utterances hit this reporter quite mercilessly, much like waves along the New Jersey shoreline  in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Using tools typically reserved for the veritable Ghost-Hunting Television genre, we were able to crack the code of the PoliSci major’s seeming gibberish. It was as follows: “Bernie 1.9% below Hillary last poll Bernie 2.2% above poll skewed towards young as conducted via ClickHole not landline telephone Cruz igniting Christian base in Iowa Paul upset cracks 5% in caucus Hillary 52% favorability rating, oh my god I can feel the polls shifting right now must-get-back-to-Goodhue-to-check.” You see, the life of the Political Science major is governed by the easily manipulated favorability platform known as the poll, which is often rendered meaningless by all sorts of skewed variables. Between checking the polls, skimming Slate or Vox or The Atlantic articles interpreting the polls, reading about various polling systems for tomorrow’s lecture on voter participation, preparing for the next convening of Carls for Hillary to discuss the latest poll results, checking the polls while still bleary-eyed and bedraggled at 8 AM, and discussing with friends how such-and-such policy as stated inmedio rerum could possibly negatively affect the polls and perhaps deflect Candidate X’s trajectory towards appealing to Party Base and clear a new path for Candidate Y, the PoliSci major rarely sees an idle moment. But please don’t mention his polling fanaticism to him, or he’ll pull out a stack of Supreme Court cases the height of Watson to somehow conclusively refute your stance on Polling and the Public Mind.

The Philosophy major has a split presence, one reclusive, timid, and introspective, the other an indomitable force of verbal mechanics, whose logic threads every statement into a beautiful arachnid weave that can quickly entangle the inexperienced in unanswered questions and an ad hominem red herring straw man slippery slope assortment of fallacies. The stride of our existential inquirer is confident and knowing, treading across areas of deep snow with a far-away gaze of contentment, climbing the water tower with ease as he breathes a long, relieving sigh near the peak, riding a motorcycle at 80 mph on an upside-down track as she lightly yawns and chuckles at her zen demeanor. She has embraced the absurdity of existence and climbed the mountain of inner solitude from which he admires the common rabble and their primordial shenanigans with a small laugh and an ever-observant air, an eternal onlooker plopped onto a strange planet far from home. On the flip side, encounters with an agitated individual of this species can be devastating. After noting your specious reasoning and grand simplifying assumption, a barrage of technical terms surfaces relating your innocent but fallacious statement to numerous meso-Kierkegaardian a posteriori lines of thought that have been scorned upon for decades by the neo-Hegelians whose analytic logic has long been proven more substantive than any “aesthetic trash” Søren can cough up. And then some frizzy-haired Nietzsche fanatic materializes with a nihilistic argument that completely nullifies the one postulated by the Philosophy major. Meanwhile, the careless wordsmith watches this theoretical transaction play out in wonder, finding solace in the practicality of an imaginary blacksmith, clanging away in his sore cranium.

The Economics major is one of the most familiar inhabitants of the small college. A common sight in the Goodhue Super-Lounge, the Econ major is boisterous and brash, often reclining by the pool table, releasing an exaggerated guffaw as a meeker companion mutters something about his Wall Street escapades during last summer’s Goldman Sachs internship. Built of brawn and perfectly coiffed, the Econ major never subverts his perpetual mating display, one of the easiest to observe on campus. The Econ dress code is much like a resource-poor Production Possibilities Frontier, confined to Carleton brand athletic apparel and a small selection of pastel-colored clothing coated in the sterile outerwear of a recognizable upscale brand.

Let’s move on to two less commonly sighted types: the Environmental Studies major and the Linguistics major.

The Environmental Studies major can be easily mistaken for the Type 1 Philosophy major. A few easy ID tips should make the distinction henceforth a simple one. Look for: a meandering gait, someone who is less assertive, longer hair, activist ribbons and pins on backpack, a dreamy gaze directed towards the trees and the sunlight dancing across the snow, someone so transfixed by mushrooms (Amanita sp.) that they collapse into an embankment, and often disappear into the Arb for hours.

The Linguistics Major major begins sentences with transitions like “clearly” and “well, if you look at the facts…” They have a disheveled appearance, and can be difficult to see through a swirl of papers on generative syntax. They eat lunch with Chomsky’s manuscripts, which they meticulously correct. Their preferred coat of academia has patches on the sleeves, and they often have a skeptical smirk.

It’s surprisingly easy to gloss over the fascinating fauna of Carleton’s bustling academic ecosystem. Under the broad umbrella of “Carls” exists distinct species, each with its own way of navigating and interacting with the Carleton universe with different vocalizations, plumage, and life histories. Slow down, take a breather, and observe the exuberant and the sullen, the boisterous and the silent. This taxonomy doesn’t create divisions, rather it embraces all scholarly species as pieces of this wondrous fabric, each bringing a sliver of specialized knowledge or a certain approach that illuminates the holistic character of the liberal arts, a realm of infinite possibilities and infinite perspectives.

For a more in-depth look, purchase the soon-to-be-released, The Poskanzer Society Field Guide to Identifying and Observing Carls.

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