Where have all the good men gone…

If you are of the ’80s generation you have that song in your head, just go ahead and admit it. Now why I used it: this short piece by Heather Wilson who sits on the Rhodes Scholar committee (i.e. selecting them) and has been a US representative. Read Here.

Money quote…

As a result, high-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why.

Unlike many graduate fellowships, the Rhodes seeks leaders who will “fight the world’s fight.” They must be more than mere bookworms. We are looking for students who wonder, students who are reading widely, students of passion who are driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the broader world through enlightened and effective leadership. The undergraduate education they are receiving seems less and less suited to that purpose.

Not that she would listen to me, after all I’m just a humble parish pastor, but I can tell you exactly why she doesn’t get the kids she’s thinks she’s longing for (all the good men…). Our education system is not designed to uncover truth except in the narrowest possible way. It doesn’t even aim at truth, and good portions don’t believe in that word. Absent of truth, the only thing to be passionate about is consumption and power.

The students that succeed wildly in our system are those that learn early that the actual questions don’t matter, just that you are on the right side of whatever the question is for the immediate context. And those students get very good at giving the right contextual answers, posing an ironic stance outside of the classroom (again the right context), and never earning either. Reading widely, wondering and having passion are all signals that you don’t actually get it. They are the very activities that our education and merit system weeds out. The student who stumbles, shows some real passion for the wrong side because she read Plato’s cave and saw a flicker of a shadow of reality gets the A minus. The A minus takes her out of the running for valedictorian, etc, etc, etc.

To find the student she is describing the Rhodes would have to change their sort and put their prestige at risk as the Rhodes would look different that everybody else. To find your life, you must lose it.

Just a personal reflection. The confirmation class knows that I have “answers” to the questions I ask. My goal is actually less to get them to that answer then to get them thinking. If I get them thinking they may never be Rhodes Scholars, but they might be those good men and women. But these 6-8th graders have already fully learned the lesson of right answers in the right context; they are just a little more flip in my class because I can’t grade them. One student in particular has taken to “locking in” his answers. Trying to break that ‘learning is a game’ cynical reaction is necessary.

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