Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why Invent Tradition?

Yesterday, while biking to school, I took up singing one of my favorite songs, Gaudeamus igitur, the alma mater of the University of Dallas. And that got me thinking... Texas A&M, a school known for its traditions, is not really that traditional, in the scheme of things. The Aggie War Hymn dates from the Great War. Gaudeamus dates from the 18th century, at least, possibly as far back as the 13th century.

At a place like UD, where one has the entire Western Tradition upon which to draw, things can fall into disuse and be revived again with relative ease. They are not exclusively UD's traditions, but the traditions of the West.

In contrast, everything at A&M is contrived and has been invented since the founding of the school in 1876. I suppose this is better than most schools, where traditional customs have been abandoned all together, but it seems like a lot of effort. Why not just pick up the traditions of your civilization?

Granted, UD has some non-traditional traditions too, like Groundhog and the Charity Week jail. But I think there really is a different quality, akin perhaps to Dr. Roper's observation that students at other schools throw far more serious parties than at UD, trying too hard. UD seems to play with tradition, knowing we won't break it, in a way that schools like A&M are not so comfortable doing.
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