A Response to Andrew Delbanco's essay "College At Risk."
It's a Sunday morning. I pass through the glass doors occupying the entrance to the sanctuary and sit in the pews closest to the bathroom. Mrs. Banks, the town's newest addict-turned-missionary, appears to be five minutes into her weekly revelation. Calvin, the deacon's son, seems to have lost the towel that he usually uses to wipe the sweat and tears that results from her sobbing. I always wondered why it was the people of whom that had appeared to have sinned the most, were the most obnoxious in church. It was as if those that had been forgiven of the most, felt the least obligated to behave communally.
I wonder if you've observed similar hysterias, in academia? I know I have. Although, from my perspective, dissonance of this kind seems to percolate wherever large amounts of suffering may be. Because surely, man would have never made the atom bomb, if nearly all was not forgiven in the pursuit of truth. And surely, we would have never acidified our oceans, depleted our O-zones, and caused the extinction of nearly 1000 different species, if nearly all was not forgiven in the pursuit of money. And all of the havoc, and destruction that I just mentioned, is just the result of blind forgiveness. We need not undergo very many thought experiments to envision the sort of chaos that would result if the blind obedience implicit in phrases like "Show me to how think and how to choose" became the mantras of the most capable students in the west.
Near the end your essay, you reference a concept you called "the whole person." While I agree with you in that it seems that modern universities appear not to be very committed to developing this ideal, I think that the implications of your prescription for this problem were not very well thought out. Consider this: if the college curriculum is to be homogenous, and society, and our industries, are to become increasingly dynamic, then what comes from releasing college students into the world can only either be destructive, or counterproductive. Surely such outcomes can't be — or, at least, shouldn't be — conducive to anyone's happiness or well-being.
When I was in high school, I often thought in terms of ideals. I wondered, "if schooling is being conducted in favor of my best interest, then why does no one here care about what I'm interested in?" These ponderings eventually led me to stop being interested in school. Sometimes I wonder, in my own terms, if I ever really became maybe what you would call "a whole person." I think that I didn't, I think that I became something more than that. I think that only after I took responsibility for my thoughts, my actions, and my choices, and what might come from those, did I ever become someone that was more valuable integrated into my community, than not.
Now, I implore you, as someone whose words can stretch past a thousand desktops, to ask yourself, "are you actually taking responsibility for the words that you preach?" or are you just being the most obnoxious one in church.