Thursday, January 23, 2014

New President Interview -- Part 26 Becoming Human part 2

Q: I would like to continue the discussion of the book:  Man is not alone by Abraham Joshua Heschel.[1]  He talks about a kind of discontent and being in a state of endless yearning.  People need to search for spiritual needs rather than achievements and find what a person is not what he has. [2] How does a college course teach this?

A:   A course in history may cover the events of the past or how the pursuit of achievements.  A course in sociology or psychology may investigate what makes a person human.  These two streams of investigation may seem contradictory until one investigates the motives to achieve.  If one was to cloister himself in a closed environment and only pray and learn all day, they will be spiritual, but never achieve anything worthwhile.  If someone acts without cognizance of the others in society and awareness of something beyond the self and society, they will never be able to accomplish peace and real happiness.

Animals are satiated when they have their needs of food and shelter met.  Because people are in always in a state of dissatisfaction, moral and scientific progress can be made.  We teach the each new generation about the past and the principles of science so that they get a type of dissatisfaction and can have a fresh view of the world.  Maturity is learning to balance the experience of our masters with the path toward the new and better ways of dealing with the world.  Classes are designed to save students from the trial and error of investigating everything on their own.  The teachers give the basis, background, and history and then guide the students to find their own answers.  Liberal education does not have all the answers but hopefully guides students to the right path to seek the mature way of appreciating the world. 

Q: How do we open the student potentialities?  How do we teach student to value success?

A: According to Heschel, values are attained when we learn to anticipate, seek, and crave for them.  Values, like goals are based on the understanding of the past and the nature of law and community.  One can not have a goal without understanding the self and the role of the self within society.  A package of cement does not strive to become a building, but the imaginations and plans of people can turn the cement as the glue to become the concrete used for a sidewalk or building.  People learn to create, based knowledge of the world, how materials work, and a yearning for something better.
Our job as educators is to show the light of knowledge to our students. Hopefully the knowledge turns into wisdom.

Q: Thank you very much.

Part twenty-six of imaginary interviews with the president of the College. After 20 interviews the president is no longer “new,” but since we are all works in progress I am continuing the series as if s/he were a “new president.” Please feel free to suggest new ideas for interviews and presidential comments. This article is for your information, amusement, and edification. Any connection to a real college or president is strictly coincidental.

[1] Heschel, Abraham Joshua.  Man is not alone : a philosophy of religion.  New York : Harper & Row, 1966 ©1951.

[2] Ibid. page 257.

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