What a better way to connect students than through a common book? Each year, a faculty committee selects a new common reading for the fall semester. Students will receive their books during New Student Orientation. The book is incorporated into the Fall Colloquium and WSEM courses.
A common reading experience is often seen as a great way for new students to embark upon the intellectual challenges of the college experience.
2013-2014 Theme: Ability and Disability
The notion of disability often is taken to mean the absence of certain capacities and skills. In obvious ways, people tend to see disability in terms of what someone cannot do, or be. In truth, though, any incapacity or dearth of one skill is apt to contain within it gifts of other kinds. How is it that a profound ability so often sits, obscured, alongside a contrasting attribute? Why is difference a source of pity or fear, rather than curiosity and respect? What might it say about our culture that we avert our gaze from those who are different, and thus miss out on their miraculous qualities?
These and related matters deserve our examination.
The Steering Committee of the Center for Engaged Ethics has selected disability and ability as the Annual Ethics Theme for 2013-2014, and Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, as the Common Reading to raise an array of questions surrounding this theme.
Curious Incident is an unconventional murder mystery, with autistic teenager Christopher John Francis Boone as the detective. While he is a gifted mathematician and student, the behavior of adults and his peers makes no sense to him because Christopher takes all things literally. After someone kills his neighbor’s poodle, Christopher resolves to find the murderer. Logic, which comes so naturally to Christopher, is his guide in this quest, but he is not able to appreciate the larger meaning of the secrets he unearths, especially in terms of the complex and sometimes painful familial and social relationships of which he is unknowingly an intricate part. These complexities hit the reader with great force. In solving the case, Christopher uncovers the reasons for his parents’ troubled marriage, and begins to come to grips with his place in the world. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the arc of Haddon’s book will prompt instructors and students alike to think about disability and ability as more than a simple dichotomy, and to appreciate the palette of aptitudes that make up each human being.