| Anybody get one of those shiny new DVDs from the College? What'd you think? Good P.R.? A waste? Is it bad simply because it lacks the charm of the classic SJC documentary with those fellows in their tweed, holding up astrolabes and so forth? All that I can say is that I think the new SJC video falls way short of what should have been its mark. Allow me to elaborate.
First of all, why embrace the scatter-brained "West Wing"/MTV style editing where no one person ever gets out more than six syllables before the scene cuts to someone else? Why is no one allowed to finish her or his own sentence? It's annoying. And it's also a pretty serious misrepresentation: if you go to SJC, you may be called on to listen to someone (one person) speak a complete sentence or to verbalize a complete thought. This flashy new DVD doesn't prepare you for that. I think that's wrong.
My second big gripe: where are the pretty people? This new movie features roughly five students of traditional student age. This age is the "target market," to borrow some lingo from the advertising world. Those of us who have been there know that St. John's has never had the prettiest student body --but the kids they chose to put on camera for this project really don't give the right impression. If this DVD is meant to be a sales tool, why couldn't the director find a couple of really pretty (boy or girl) freshmen and feed them lines (assuming that the really pretty ones wouldn't be able to string together coherent thoughts on their own)?
My next gripe: St. John's says that it's one thing, and then uses alums as evidence to prove an entirely different case. First the College holds itself out as a place where "career training" and "vocational education" are given no regard. The College says it exposes students to Great Books, "life of the mind," "life-long learning," etc. But then it parades a bunch of alums who have effectively "made it" in the traditional sense: lawyers, investment managers, medical doctors, college professors. Why didn't the director of this little project find a few really interesting Johnnies -people who really embody the ethos of "the life of the mind," rather than a bunch of starched-shirt nine-to-five folks who have succeeded in the traditional sense despite their eccentric undergrad education?
Perhaps worst of all: why does this video feature Carter Snead as a model for St. John's success? Those of you who were there then (Annapolis, you know when) will recall that Mr. Snead was made to leave the school after being caught conspiring with another student to steal books from the Annapolis campus bookstore. He actually stole books, with his accomplice, more than one time. He bragged of his ill-gotten gains to more than one of his classmates. And when he was busted HE LIED. Not only did he lie when he said he didn't do it, he went so far as to lie to certain well-liked tutors, telling them that he had been falsely accused. Sadly, one or a couple of those tutors believed him and went to bat for him, not knowing that he really was guilty (in the truest sense of not being innocent). So he stole, then he lied, then he lied some more and got people to lie for him. Then the whole thing imploded on him and he had to leave school for a year. Now he's a licensed lawyer (that's a little bit funny!) AND he's the president's something, something counsel on bio-ETHICS! That's right kids, ethics! (That’s downright nuts!) Who knows how he made the whole book-stealing conspiracy scheme go away. Regardless, is he the guy we want to put in the College video? How long before this guy gets outed doing something sinister at a federal level? If this new video is going to have a decent shelf-life, somebody needs to edit Mr. Snead out. Beyond the ticking time-bomb factor, seeing him presented as a Johnny-done-good really churns my alumnus stomach. Any Johnny who hasn't stolen, lied, and suborned others to lie has done much better, regardless of their job title.
Enough. I encourage recipients of the new SJC promo DVD to destroy the disc. This DVD does nothing for the College and can only do it harm. It cheapens the Program, the place, and does a terrible injustice to the real Johnnies who have made the school the great place it really is.