Worth It?

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute on success and leisure:

Let us indulge ourselves in a brief digression: why do we assume that a person is successful if and only if that person can find a high-paying job? Why is it not possible to imagine a happy and successful, well-educated person who drives a cab for a living? Or works on a farm? Or clerks at Wal-mart? Why do we simply assume that empowerment equates with financial success, and why do we equate personal worth with status?

It is only a world too attached to the status of wealth that defines success in such terms. An educated person must be able to pursue success without wedding it to wealth or even status in the eyes of men. This is why the nouveau riche type baffles me so: how much is something worth getting if you can be intellectually and spiritually stimulated and fulfilled without it?

The point is not that money doesn’t matter at all; the point is rather that it’s easier to become a slave to money and busyness than we usually think. So easy, in fact, that we say that we’d like leisure but still take a bad opinion of anyone who actually takes it: the fact is, we take pride in bondage.

Working for leisure

ISI’s spiel continued:

Is it possible that none of us will ever again be able to understand what the Greeks knew so well, that is, what Aristotle was saying when he noted that we work for the sake of leisure? Are we doomed to live in the bind described by German sociologist and historian Max Weber who likened work in the modern world to the be-all and end-all of human endeavor? In such a world, Weber notes, “One does not only work in order to live, but one lives for the sake of one’s work, and if there is no more work to do then one suffers or goes to sleep.” In the best of all possible worlds, education would prepare young people for a life of leisure, properly understood as a life of devoted to continued intellectual and spiritual growth. It would not prepare them simply for work. Perhaps the time has come to drive a wedge between the education and job-training once and for all.

If we consider our ultimate aims, why do we lose sight of those and let intermediate aims dictate what we think we need? We do the same things with vocation, with love, with appetite, with everything imaginable, but we need not suffer from this myopia. Let’s instead devote ourselves to what’s worth having.

The effect of class and priorities?

We can apply these things to admission to “higher education”: admission is neither about elitism nor about egalitarianism. No, let this be the criterion: commitment commitment to the growth and use of the mind to worthy ends as the purpose and essence of education. That should be the first consideration before all others, one that serves both to include those who should attend university and to exclude those who shouldn’t. Anyone who does not meet this requirement is not worthy of being further considered for admission to a university.

Even the ability to endure university without being kicked out – wait, people actually are flunked out of college? – is secondary to that. And let us not even mention the possibility of token “diversity” taking precedence. Who attends a school is an integral part of what the school is: let this fact be used for good, for the benefit of mankind.


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