Section: Opinion

Kenyon community perpetuates negative stereotype of Knox County locals

I moved to Knox County in high school after my dad started working at Kenyon. While I was wary at first, I soon felt at home here. It wasn’t until I got to college that I had to actually defend my town. The constant slander from both friends and strangers about my home has occurred every single semester I’ve been at Kenyon.

I understand the polite banter on Midwestern sayings and behavior — I’ve often argued over the merits of “pop” vs. “soda” and enjoyed it heartily. In my almost three and a half years at Kenyon, I’ve heard such musings as “people from Knox County don’t know anything outside Ohio” and have been told I was “different” because, compared to other locals, I was not boring or uneducated. These statements caught me off guard in the beginning and used to upset me. Now, I’m just bored of it. Not only have I heard Mount Vernon referred to as a “glorified bus stop” because it has a Payless Shoe Store, but I have also been told over and over that Knox County has nothing to offer.

This is not only a big pet peeve of mine but also a completely unjustified assessment of the county I call home. Here I am, with one foot in the Kenyon community and the other in the greater Knox County community, and the only difference I see is the overwhelming ignorance on the part of the former.

I’m not saying that Mount Vernon is the pinnacle of society. Certainly, we don’t have the diversity of entertainment or employment options that you’d have in, say, New York City. On the other hand, as a student of Kenyon, you didn’t choose to go to New York University or Columbia University. You chose to come to the middle of nowhere, Ohio. Just because you’ve had a different life experience, it does not mean that mine — though perhaps opposite to yours — is somehow lesser.

Even Kenyon itself, with its extensive network of recruiters, seems to forget about its own county when reaching out to students. The small percentage of local students who go here is seemingly odd, especially considering that, out of that number, quite a few are the children of Kenyon employees. I think it’s great that we have so many people from all over the country and world, but I have to wonder why Kenyon doesn’t feel the need to promote itself to schools in the immediate area. If we really want to foster a relationship with the surrounding area, we need to start with a sense of welcoming.

I will probably leave Knox County after I graduate in May. But when I leave, no matter how different my next town is, I cannot imagine my first reaction will be quick judgments of others’ experiences. Please have the decency to do the same for me and other people from the area. Calling us “townies” and judging the area does not make you a better person; it’s just patronizing, and makes you seem pretty elitist. Even if you hate Knox County, have enough respect for its residents to not disrespect us so blatantly.

Maybe the issue stems from Kenyon’s lack of true connection with the surrounding area. One can hope that with the recent purchase of the Wright Center downtown we can begin to foster a more understanding relationship with residents in the greater Knox County community. This can be beneficial to all of us and cultivate a more positive image of locals in the eyes of Kenyon students, and vice versa.

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