Monday, August 6, 2012


When you come to college you enter the realm of “Higher Education,” the aim of which is to cultivate the higher capacities of your mind.  You are here to develop your mind because mentality is the most distinctive characteristic of human beings.  “I think, therefore I am,” said Rene Descartes, the philosopher, yet he spoke for all human beings, possessed uniquely among earthly creatures with brains that can wonder and ponder, speculate and suppose, analyze and theorize, imagine and create.  “What a piece of work is a man,” exclaimed Hamlet, “how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties.”

When you come to college for a “liberal education,” to study “the liberal arts and sciences,” your proper aim is to liberate the potentials of your mind by activating your latent powers for thought and action that lead to wise deeds: to the realization of what is valuable for yourself and others.

Although you may harbor a different conception of college that simply reflects the curricular program and tallies course requirements to be checked off, that concept reflects the letter but not the spirit of Higher Education—which is really about the growth of your mind.  You should view each course you choose or are required to take, in both your general education and your major/minor programs, for how it will exercise and develop one or another mental skill, one or another cognitive or affective faculty of thought, as well as how it will inform you with not trivial data but significant knowledge.

College can initiate and accelerate this kind of mental growth in you, but college ends in a commencement, not a conclusion; which is to say that college, rightly undertaken, prepares you to continue learning and developing your mind, autodidactically, directing your own course of learning, for the rest of your life.