Two weeks ago, Pop the Bubble held an event on Education Reform. There were professors and students on the panel who spoke about the changes that should be made regarding our education system. The majority of the opening remarks pointed out the fact that education as we know it today does not fulfill the purpose of education. Education as a process of cultivating the students in all areas has been reduced to: means to an end. Basically, education is a necessary step to getting a well-paid job.
In 2001, David Brooks published an article entitled The Organization Kid in The Atlantic. He described the 2001 students as conformists who appreciate discipline to creativity, tradition to rebellion, responsibility to adventure. According to Brooks, the 2001 generation grew up never raising questions about ways of living, not doubting what is right and wrong, generally not questioning the system within which they live, never questioning democracy, education, and capitalism. I believe that this still remains true for our generation. We still, as Brook stated on 2001, regard the world in which we live in as just. We believe that if one works hard, is disciplined and obeys the law, speaks using politically correct terms, takes the right pills to balance his/her chemical imbalance, will be rewarded with a great seat in the social hierarchy. This student will most probably get into a great college, maybe even a graduate program, and as a result will probably make a lot of money. Also, one will be a good friend, a good parent, and a good husband. If you play by the rules of the system, one is very likely to live a good life. However, is this really the life we want? Do we really want to be, as Brooks puts it, not intellectual risk-takers? Is the attitude of regarding our professors, deans, bosses, as always right as opposed to authorities to be challenged, a pleasant attitude?
We see cases of students crying when other people succeed in winning a Truman and Rhodes scholarship. We see students doing internships they hate just to fill their resume. However, we see less and less students reading books on literature, music, philosophy, history. Every day we see more people reading books with titles such as: How to Win Friends and Influence People? How to Find a Job, How to Look Expensive, How to Win at Everything Every Time, and even How to Read a Book, How to Persuade Others to Your Way of Thinking. Even worse, these are not made-up titles. How often do students ask us about which professor is the easiest and which classes are easy A classes? Why is it that students do not approach each other to ask about a class that they found to be rewarding and intellectually stimulating? Why is that every day students are getting less engaged in conversations about politics, art, psychology, philosophy, literature, music? Why is that each day our friendships are becoming more about Youtube videos and commenting on SNL? Students are more interested on the benefits they are going to have once they get a job, rather than enjoying the benefits of being a student. Every day students fill their planners with numerous activities, which remain just a number on their resumes. I do recognize that this is a result of what we are expected to achieve. We live in a particular success-system, in which we are required to have the best GPA, a major with which we can get a well-paid job, a rich resume, numerous activities and sports, membership in clubs, etc., etc. We are not required to read as much or to critically reflect on our surrounding systems, but we are required to be at the right place and the right time with the right people. If we are not pleased with the way we are learning and being educated, we have the right to change it. If we feel that these requirements for success, which is coming to be defined as money, given to us by our society are not leaving room for creativity, and even sleep, we have the right to go ask for a better student life.
In The Organization Kid, Brooks quotes Paul Tillich who said: “We hope for nonconformists among you, for your sake, for the sake of the nation, and for the sake of humanity.” I would encourage everyone to think about the role of education. Is the education you are getting fulfilling? Has education really become a means to an end? Does the word conformist describe the majority of people you are surrounded by?