Notre Dame and the Popular Imagination
Speaking of Catholic higher education, I have to confess I still don’t quite get it –and I’m two steps removed from getting it. “It” is the tremendous attention that ND’s internal operations provoke from all sorts of people — not just alumns, but also people who never went here, and never even applied here. I don’t mean just whether the football team wins or loses, I mean what happens on campus otherwise (such as the Vagina Monologues). I understand that people have opinions — I just don’t understand the absolute passion.
Step 1: ND Alumni are more engaged than other alumni. I went to Princeton as an undergrad–and am tremendously appreciative of the education they gave me. I do have concerns and opinions about what’s going on there now, but nowhere near the degree of passion that campus events seem to generate in ND alums. My sense is that the intensity of undergraduate dorm life–the ND family–creates more intense bonds. But I’m not entirely sure that this is the entire story. This loyalty, this concern, seems to last an awfully long time past undergrad days. What’s the additional factor?
Step 2: People who never went here, or even applied here, or even thought of applying here, have passionate opinions about what should happen here. Why? Is it just because ND’s Catholic? Is it just because it’s prominent and Catholic ? Is it more than that? I don’t have passionate opinions about what should happen at Harvard, or Stanford, or Cal Tech. Or even the Air Force Academy, even though I’m American. I don’t have passionate opinions about what should happen at Georgetown, or Steubenville, even though I’m Catholic.
Is it Rudy? Is there some way in which ND “belongs” to everyone? What way?