Monday, September 17, 2007

Psst. The Meaning of Life. Pass It On.

Anthony Kronman on colleges, universities, and the meaning of life. An excerpt:

As this new vision of higher education took hold in America, faculty members ceased to think of themselves as shapers of souls. Today's students are thus denied the opportunity to explore the question of life's meaning in an organized way, under the guidance of teachers who seek to acquaint their students with the answers contained in the rich tradition whose transmission was once the special duty of the humanities.

It has also put the humanities in the shadow of the natural and social sciences. Judged by the standards of these latter disciplines, research in the humanities is bound to seem less conclusive, less accretive, less quantifiable. In philosophy, one can reasonably claim that there has been no meaningful progress since Plato. For a physicist to say the same thing about Newton would be absurd. Teachers of the humanities who judge their work strictly from the standpoint of the research ideal condemn themselves to an inferior position in the hierarchy of academic authority and prestige.

[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]


Anonymous said...

In my job, I find the lack of self-examination reflected in ways that harm our bottom line. Too often, everyone from line workers to managers focus solely on operations. While this is an essential function of business, it leaves other essential questions unasked.

1) What is the purpose of the Company?
2) What is the purpose of the department in which I work?
3) How does 2) relate to 1)?
4) What is the purpose of my position?
5) How does 4) relate to 3)?
6) Besides what IS the purpose of my position, department, and company, what SHOULD the purpose be?
7) What should I spend more of my time doing? Less?
8) Given the answer to 7, what is preventing me from spending my time as I should? What can I do about it?
9) If I answered these questions last year, what has changed which should cause me to re-examine 1-8? Note the question is not DID things change. Of course they did. The question is WHAT has changed.

In my opinion, if every worker, at least the ones with any decision making authority at all, does not know the answer to these questions, the Company has failed them.

Michael Wade said...


Excellent observations! It is surprising how seldom managers and empoyees discuss the basics. I've seen situations where managers have been supervising people for years and then, when you sit down and talk with each about what the job entails, you discover that they have completely different sets of priorities. They are, in essence, thinking of two different jobs.