The education continues


Decisions are something with which I have always had difficulty. It was not uncommon for me to call my parents or grandma during college to bounce ideas off them and to get their input. When I was little, my sister would help me decide what food to order off a menu by telling me which dish she knew I would like better. I think one of the reasons I have had trouble in the past and present making a decision is the fact that I want to make the “right decision” to maximize utility. My struggle with decision-making unsettles my otherwise easy-going personality.

The quest for free food continues

This past week, as my Free Food Challenge (“FFC”) continues (see previous post) I have been presented with the decision of which events to attend. On Day Eleven and Twelve, I weighed the costs and benefits of several events that overlapped in time. On Day Eleven, I was torn between two events—I could stay for the whole Q&A period of the “New CEO Activism: How Corporate Leaders are Shaping the Public Discourse on Social Justice Issues,” or I could leave early to attend the Project Change reunion (see Sept. 2 post) where I hoped to reconnect with the pChange freshmen and grab a bit of free food for dinner. I ended up staying for the Q&A session to make sure I fulfilled my FFC rules and ask a question (see Sept. 22 post). Consequently, I was late to the reunion and found only one piece of pizza left. A more substantial dinner was sacrificed for the enrichment of attending both events.

The “New CEO” talk with John Replogle (CEO of Seventh Generation) and Professor Edward Freeman was fascinating. During the event, I found myself scribbling down quotes of things that stuck with me: “[Business] is the greatest invention of capitalism and social collaboration”; “If you wanna go fast go alone; if you want to go far go together.” During the event, Freeman and Replogle had me thinking about all the different ways industry and business can force change or change current business practices to make the world a better place—“The only way to solve global problems is with global businesses”; “Business leadership is a call to serve.”

However, after the event I reflected on the way their argument was set up. It seems backwards that we should be excited about this new push towards Corporate Social Responsibility. As they said, business should be invested in helping out all the stakeholders and community—“[CEOs should work toward] building something to last versus stirring up controversy.” There should be some greater purpose than profits. Why should we be giving businesses a pat on the back for doing the “right thing?” Shouldn’t this be the norm? Shouldn’t we expect corporations to be good citizens, and penalize them if they are not, rather than give them bonus points for ethical behavior?

On Thursday (Day Twelve), there were two talks at the same time, both which I had an interest in attending. The first was hosted by Science and Society (“Governing Reproduction”) and the second by Global Health Institute (“Making Health Markets Work for the Poor”). I ended up going to the “Governing Reproduction” talk. The talk more accurately could have been titled “Stalemate in Governing Reproduction.” I learned there are few laws and regulations to guide reproductive technologies (e.g., how individuals conduct trials around reproduction) because there is a lack of productive dialogue between politicians on this sensitive issue. Dialogue fails to occur due to the association reproductive technologies has with the issue of abortion.

As to whether my selection of the former talk met my dietary needs for the day, apparently the topic was interesting to many because the food was gone ten minutes after the start of the event, and, because I was late, I ended up with nothing. Nonetheless, I’m still really glad I got to go to the talk!

Ultimately, for both days I weighed both decisions and opted for the talks from which I thought I could learn more. Fortunately, I felt as though I made good decisions; unfortunately, in both occasions, the decisions did not lead to maximizing the amount of food I received.

Aside from the stress from decision-making, I have been exceptionally fortunate that this FFC gives me the opportunity to learn new things everyday. I had an irrational fear right before graduation that I would miss the structure of the formal learning setting (e.g., classes, lectures, labs, etc.), and that I would be compelled to return to graduate school immediately. However, I have come to realize that informal learning can be an everyday activity on a university campus if one takes advantage of all of the talks and symposiums that are going on.

One of the lunch events I went to this week was titled “The Education of Bruno Latour.” Bruno Latour is a philosopher, anthropologist, and sociologist of science. He is currently studying Critical Zone Observatories, which are defined as “Earth’s permeable near surface layer… from the tops of the trees to the bottom of the groundwater.” He challenged the definition of modernism and how we have put ideas into silos. He talked about a mock conference he held where the atmosphere had a place at the table to negotiate a climate deal. Latour called himself a “defender of science because science has been attacked by ‘bad guys’ in the name of science.” I must say that his remarks were all above me. I had trouble understanding his metaphors and I had to read up afterwards on the ideas that he presented to get some sense of what he was talking about. Latour pushed me to think about things I have never even thought about, and the talk emphasized to me that I don’t even know what topics I should be thinking about critically.  Thus, my informal education will have to continue. Latour called himself “a student.” Perhaps we all remain students for life.  There were about 25 other attendees at the Latour event, most who were over the age of 25. While I don’t know all of my “classmates” by name anymore, I feel a sense of solidarity with my fellow learners on this unspoken pact to continue learning.