Sunday, October 18, 2009

Making Money Is NOT the Purpose of Human Existence!!

In case you were wondering. I'll go out on a limb and claim that. And even though Socrates and the Buddha and Jesus all claimed the same thing, they're all dead (according to some) and died with the least number of toys, so it seems not many people today are inclined to listen to them, and certainly not to little, bourgeois me.

And that's how I'd summarize this essay by Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard. She argues that making money is NOT the sole or primary purpose of education, and that it has poisoned our culture, within and beyond academia.

Among her points, she quotes from another critic:

"George Fallis, a former dean at York University in Toronto, deplores the growing dominance of economic justifications for universities. They conflict, he argues, “with other parts of the multiversity’s mission, with . . . narratives of liberal learning, disinterested scholarship and social citizenship.” University leaders, he observes, have embraced a market model of university purpose to justify themselves to the society that supports them with philanthropy and tax dollars. Higher education, Fallis insists, has the responsibility to serve not just as a source of economic growth, but as society’s critic and conscience. Universities are meant to be producers not just of knowledge but also of (often inconvenient) doubt. They are creative and unruly places, homes to a polyphony of voices. But at this moment in our history, universities might well ask if they have in fact done enough to raise the deep and unsettling questions necessary to any society. "

Eternal things. Intangible things. Meaningful things. Life and eduation are about those. Nothing wrong with having some money along the way - and no reason to think the LACK of money is especially pleasant or revelatory (it ain't - ask any poor person). But don't mistake a happy coincidence for the purpose of your life.

EDIT: In good tag team fashion, MattC sent me another link when I sent him the link to this essay:

The internet's good for all kinds of learnin' and stuff!

And my favorite quotation from the Atlantic article (which overall debunks the idea that "management" is "scientific" or is even a worthy topic of study per se):

"The tragedy, for those who value their reading time, is that Rousseau and Shakespeare said it all much, much better. In the 5,200 years since the Sumerians first etched their pictograms on clay tablets, come to think of it, human beings have produced an astonishing wealth of creative expression on the topics of reason, passion, and living with other people. In books, poems, plays, music, works of art, and plain old graffiti, they have explored what it means to struggle against adversity, to apply their extraordinary faculty of reason to the world, and to confront the naked truth about what motivates their fellow human animals. These works are every bit as relevant to the dilemmas faced by managers in their quest to make the world a more productive place as any of the management literature. "


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