Home Campus Darin Merrill hates roundabouts

Darin Merrill hates roundabouts

To say that Darrin Merrill is not a fan of roundabouts would be an understatement.

“Roundabouts ain’t American, right?” said Merrill, with a heavy emphasis on ‘ain’t’. “And that’s okay. Neither was the smallpox vaccine.”

Merrill is an English professor at BYU-Idaho. He is fluent in Old-English. One of his favorite things to do is recite stirring renditions of Old-English poetry. Among the courses he teaches are British Literature and a course that focuses on John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

Merrill was born in Moreland, Idaho. As a professor at BYU-I since 2002, he and his wife Jamie have raised 5 children one boy and four girls. And he still has a full head of hair to show for it, despite the fact that he is also a grandfather.

Apparently, after having frustrating encounters with other drivers at different round-abouts throughout Idaho, Merrill developed a rather sophisticated take on the issues that accompany the proper navigation of these intersectional traffic mechanisms.

He sometimes presents his thoughts on roundabouts to his students in lecture form, much to their delight.

“Why can’t we use just a good old patriotic stop sign?” Merrill quipped. “A lot of drivers just don’t care to figure it out. They’re not thinking far enough ahead. Not that a person should be sitting at home wondering, ‘What am I going to do at the roundabout?’ How about just paying attention to the signage and trying to understand? That would be enough.”

Merrill understands that his criticisms of the behavior of drivers at roundabouts aren’t necessarily a grave or extremely important issue. But his commentary on the principle at play in roundabout conflict is interesting.

“To me, (petty traffic violations) are an example of failure to comprehend the delicacy and vulnerability of our system of government,” Merrill began. “We all agree to give up a certain amount of our liberty so that everybody can have as much liberty as possible. We stop at stop signs, we don’t discharge firearms in the city limits, we don’t have a rooster because they’re really noisy at 5 a.m. and people are trying to sleep.”

To Merrill, roundabouts represent this type of mundane and normal activity, which is part of everyday life and bound by law.

“The social contract is considerate of the other, to the tune of about 80% – 85%,” continued Merrill. “We give up this fraction of our liberty at the top, by just obeying the law so that we don’t get to act however the heck we want, whenever we want. As soon as somebody violates that, it not only damages the social contract in general, but it erodes everyone’s capacity to be free. Feeling the way I do about liberty and freedom, that bothers me quite a bit because our system is vulnerable to that kind of self-absorption.”

Merrill is most often chagrined at the fact that other drivers express road rage at those who execute their traffic navigation in those settings properly.

“I don’t know how many times people have made obscene gestures at me because I am obeying the signage at the roundabout,” Merrill said. “It’s a more insidious thing than even invasion from a foreign source because we know where the enemy is that context, and we can deal with it. It’s much harder to wage a war against selfishness.”

Merrill’s thoughts on the conduct of private citizens in the fast lane or otherwise represent an interesting digression from the professor’s normal subject matter.

By interspersing personal commentary in the midst of more lofty content, such as serious analysis of Geoffrey Chaucer or the message of “Paradise Lost,” Merrill creates a unique learning environment that is both practical and philosophical.

Of the three courses that Merrill is teaching over the Winter 2022 semester, two are already full.

“Great Books of the World” and “Senior Writing Seminar” filled up quickly, with some students opting to sign onto a waitlist.

Student’s at BYU-I who are looking to be both educated and entertained would do well to consider taking a course or two from Dr. Darin Merrill.

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