Micheal Bérubé on college towns

A delightful vignette from an essay on the curious social, cultural, and economic dynamics of rural college towns by cultural critic Micheal Bérubé in The Chronicle of Higher Education :

From "Blue Towns in Red States" (sub required):

When I moved to Champaign, Ill., and witnessed a biter, friendship-ending–and coalition-ending–conflict between vegetarians and vegans over who slipped the cream into the broccoli soup at the local organic food co-op, I knew I was in a college town.

What a great image.  For me it brings to mind not only the small town
foibles of Garisson Keilor’s mythic Lake Wobegone, but also Yiddish storyteller Sholom Aleichem‘s hilarious yarns of intra-Jewish linguistic squabbles
in the 19th century Pale of Settlement between defenders of
Yiddish–the traditional language of European Jewry–and young, err,
turks promoting Hebrew.

One socio-cultural phenomenon Bérubé omits is the sometimes tense interactions between less well off locals and students, especially those who are living large and without a care in the world thanks to Daddy (or Mommy) while their local peers toil in low-paying jobs. 

Students in small towns often occupy, I suspect, a paradoxical place in the ecosystem like that of tourists in developing countries.  Locals bemoan their presence and impact on their way of life while being hopelessly (and sometimes resentfully) dependent on them to keep the economy afloat. 


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