Thursday, March 08, 2007

Academic Dueling

I am thankful for small favors. Among the many disciplinary problems on university campuses ranging from the ubiquity of drinking, drug possession, and academic dishonesty to more serious crimes such as sexual assault and arson, there is at least one disciplinary problem I don't have to contend with. Dueling. I am grateful that this particular academic tradition didn't migrate here along with so many other German University traditions. I'm glad we took up beer drinking instead.

Mark Twain wrote about these duels. The aim was to produce a wicked and sexy facial scar. It was more about the body modification than about demonstrating any particular skill with a sword. This is why you see so many scars in the portraits of nineteenth century Prussian aristocrats. It's not that they were leading cavalry charges. It's that they were in fraternities. Both Nietzsche and Marx had dueling scars from their college days.

So the next time I have to deal with a student drinking or drug infraction, I will try to console myself with the thought that at least there were no dueling injuries involved.

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