A Life Less Instrumental
It was standing room only on September 18th when author William Deresiewicz delivered the talk, “Change Your Mind First: College and the Urge to Change the World,” in front of an audience of over 100 people. Deresiewicz, author of the bestseller Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and Way to a Meaningful Life, spoke in support of a non-utilitarian approach to education in which subjects are studied for their own sakes, the very definition of the “liberal arts” on his telling. This model of learning is largely gone in higher education today, Deresiewicz told his listeners, a change that constitutes a tragic loss to the students. Today, he continued, students are rather unreflective about their views–especially political assumptions–and largely agree with one another in their worldviews, a historically new reality that makes possible and reinforces a model of education that, instead of interrogating personal views, skips ahead (and restricts itself) to the profitable and effective deployment of knowledge. After the talk, a number of students expressed agreement with Deresiewicz’s description of their generation and the college experience today. Though grateful for his diagnosis, some remained skeptical about his proposed solutions of a return to a earlier form of education.
Watch the entire lecture below: