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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: College should be a balance of practical involvements and self discovery

Of all the books that have hit bookstore shelves this past summer, “The Road to Character” is one of the most insightful. The book’s author, David Brooks, makes an interesting distinction between two sets of virtues, the “eulogy virtues” and the “resume virtues.”

“Resume virtues” are just what you think they are, essentially whatever you should write on your resume. They demonstrate your commercial value. The “eulogy virtues” that Brooks describes, are deeper. These are the virtues that people will remember you by at your funeral. They describe who you are at a human level, “whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful.”

College should be spent focusing on finding a balance between two very important aspects of growth, both groups of virtues. If we solely focus on “resume virtues” we may never know ourselves deeply enough to apply them and if we focus too much on “eulogy virtues” we may not have the capital to express them.

Most of us believe that the “eulogy virtues” are the more meaningful of the two. But, if you’re like me, then you spend most of your time dwelling on “resume virtues,” and you’re not exactly spending the rest of the time building your “eulogy virtues,” quite the opposite, in fact.

The attitude toward college that the meritocratic academic culture has hammered into millennials is that this is the time to build ourselves into professionals who will be successful in the marketplace.

We’re told that by the time we finish college we ought to have all of the ingredients on our resume to appeal to future employers. We start with a class schedule that reflects our hypothetical employers’ preferences more than ours. We add the internships with just the proper combination of work related knowledge and work ethic. Then, to ice the cake, we throw in some clubs. But not just any old clubs, our hypothetical employer’s favorite clubs.

This has been the mentality about college for years and people are beginning to formulate opinions about why the narrow and dehumanizing meritocratic outlook on college lacks a healthy balance. William Deresiewicz, author of “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life,” makes clear in an essay drawn from his book that our elite education system manufactures young people who are smart, talented and driven, but also anxious, timid and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose.

There’s a movement about with a message that college should be more than just building ourselves into a marketable object. College should also be about discovering and building ourselves into a human being with a unique identity and moral value, a message that we should pay more attention to developing our “eulogy virtues.” And after two years of college, I believe it’s a message worth thinking about.

We’re in this kind of gap between family and career at the UA, and each year spent away from home we grow more and more as individuals. We might think about spending some time asking ourselves old questions, and seeing if we have new answers. If we do, they’re likely tentative answers, but now is the time to really try and figure them out.

These answers could be as trivial as a newfound love for a particular poetic singer/songwriter, or as momentous as a change in your life’s trajectory, in what you think is meaningful. You may have thought that poetry was lame in high school, but after an English course find within yourself an urge to buy and explore the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.

It may even be something as fundamental to your growing identity-capital as a happy-go-lucky character, and in an effort to find a more fitting self, try on a more serious attitude. We’re in a stage of our lives where we can try out a few hats and see which one fits best.

While we need to ensure that college is effectively used as a means of becoming financially independent afterward, we might also recognize this unique life opportunity to learn what is meaningful in our life, separate from our role in society at large.

By thoughtfully considering ideas of our own “eulogy virtues,” we can begin to develop a better sense of who we are. If we don’t know who we are, how well do other people know us? Finding our true self might help develop truer friendships, or a better fit for a life’s work, or both, that could make life, and a life’s work, more satisfying.

Follow Wyatt Z. Conoly on Twitter.

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