Saturday, February 12, 2011


Suppose this: that much of what you do and believe that you do voluntarily, you actually do reflexively, because you have been programmed to do so by others.

That is to say, much of the time you are more a robot than a free agent.  You live conditionally, not deliberately.

Instead of making your autonomous way, by your own reckoning and deciding, you rely on others’ opinions and decisions to guide and direct you.

In your childhood and youth, such dependent behavior was necessary for your wholesome development, provided that those guiding and directing you were caring, intelligent and wise.

But comes the time of self-determination that rightly marks adulthood.  In our affluent society (for those fortunate enough) college is the gateway out of adolescent dependencies into self-determined adulthood on the road toward wisdom.

The liberal education that traditional colleges provide intends to liberate you from the vestiges of thoughtless social and mental conditioning by directing you to think for yourself, to examine all the assumptions implanted in you by the various conditioning forces of your previous upbringing.  College is your opportunity to follow Socrates’ famous maxim: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  You rightly go to college to examine life more closely and thoroughly.

Although you may feel that it is you being examined—exam after exam, test after test, paper after paper—the true goal of college (often overlooked) is for you to acquire the various kinds of thinking skills that will let you discover for yourself how best to view the world and invest your life.  Those are the big questions: What is true, and what’s to do?

But college only initiates you into that great human quest.  The rest of your life continues this journey of world and self-discovery, moving you toward greater clarity of understanding and wisdom of decision.  Only that way may you live liberally as Homo sapiens sapiens.