Today I am in classes all day. I am taking a 19th and 20th Century Culture class and Political & Social Philosophy. Once I get to leave classes, I then go home to read a ton and start on yet another paper on Colonial South America and the U.S.’s / Spanish interventionist policies. Writing papers have become my life, easily putting out 20 pages a week. In 22 weeks I will be graduating and I have no idea what I will do after that. I guess I should figure something out sooner or later, but for now I must focus on today and this weeks assignments. Back to class…..
Have you ever wondered why you should pursue an undergraduate education? Perhaps you have wondered what was the point of taking so many classes and spending so much money for a piece of stock paper with some printed words. Many students go off to college because it is either expected from them or because it is a standardized requirement for a good paying job. I have heard both reasons given in my time at university. While they are both correct in why we attend university, they do not explain the reason behind why the degree is important or what it represents. If we acknowledge that this small piece of paper is a symbol of something much more, we may begin to grasp the purpose and value of an undergraduate education.
The primary goal for any undergraduate while attending university is to expand their perception of the world, to explore new ideas, to strengthen philosophical positions through rigorous debate, and most importantly, to become skilled writers. Writing is the fundamental component to any educational program. In recent years, this skill has become diluted within universities with things such as multiple choice test, or fill in the blank questions. Writing allows us to sort out our thoughts, to structure our arguments, and to communicate with others. Writing is a tool, which if used correctly, can mold students into powerful individuals. Learning to write complex works in an intelligible way is a fundamental component to any future job, career, or profession. Students in university should prioritize learning this skill even if it requires additional work on their own.
In addition to learning how to write, those pursuing higher education should engage in exploring new ideas. As students, we must endeavor into new intellectual areas of inquiry. No longer can we say that “X” philosophy or belief is correct without holding the evidence to back up our claims. We must push past the obvious and understand where claims derive their basis, and when a claim is found to be false. We must have the courage to proclaim its falsehood. In today’s world, students must be open to new ideas, while at the same time remaining skeptical of the information being taught at university. Deciphering one’s opinion, political rhetoric, or factual evidence is a hard task to undertake. When factual evidence is presented, it is always best to dig into the research if possible. As any statistical class will tell you, one person or one view does not represent the entire body of research. Another way to think of this, is that your classes are only the beginning. View them as a starting point, a nudge in the right direction.
Once you have explored new ideas and constructed your augments, it is vital that you debate your positions with others. Present your positions and argue your points, all the while revising and updating your positions. Make a tweak here or there, and in some cases, you must replace your position all together. This is and has always been how we grow intellectually. Challenging what we believe to be right with oppositional views is the basis of human progress. As undergraduates and even as adults, we do not know everything. Ask questions and for clarification if points are not clearly presented. You will feel dumb asking questions, but anything worth knowing has a price. The difference between a wise person and a fool, is that the wise man recognizes how little he truly does know.
Students who can implement these three concepts into their undergraduate education will thrive in their studies and later in their chosen professions. Learning how to argue, to stand your ground in a debate and how to clearly present your ideas in a written form are lifelong skills which will prove to be increasingly valuable.
–By Christian D. Frazier
There was once a young man by the name of Edward. He was a tall, stocky lad who grew up in the Southeast part of Ohio, in a small rural community known as Cambridge. Not much is ever written about this part of the country, that is not until recently. For the last fifty years, this segment of the nation has been in decline and those who have not left the area in search of jobs are now suffering in a way that many seem not to understand. The once hard working population of Appalachia is now replaced with the unmotivated, uneducated, and drug dependent. The once proud, honest, and vibrant people who dwelt here have been corrupted by the changing times. The economic outlook is bleak for these parts, and what will become of this area is yet to be seen. This is a story about a young man who grew up in this decaying, forgotten part of America and his solemn journey.
It was a cold morning in mid-September, when Edward awoke to the rattling of the train tracks which ran past the small single room he rented from a friend’s mother. Ever since his father died from a drug overdose, and his mother went missing he had to find a place to live. The small room was just big enough to fit a single bed and a small dresser up again the opposing wall. This was an improvement from the couch which Edward had been sleeping on since the disappearance of his mother, so when he was offered the room he jumped on the opportunity. As the train passed, Edward moaned in a low tone, and tossed his legs out of the bed, then raised himself up to a sitting position. As he sat there with both hands over his face, rubbing his eyes he thought to himself, “So another day has begun”. He made his way over to his pile of clothes, found the work uniform that smelled like greasy fast food and threw it into his backpack. As he did so he could not help but think, “I just washed that thing! How in the hell does it still smell like burgers?!”. Next he found his laptop and school books, this time taking care to place them into the bag carefully. As he zipped up the old canvas backpack that had been torn and sewn several times, he began to plan the day’s events. Although Edward was only sixteen years old, he knew that if he was ever going to survive this life, he must set goals and force those goals into being. This morning was no exception.
As Edward opened the back door, piercing rain drops and cold air hit his face. The sky was filled with dark clouds. The house he was living in was on the northern part of town and was situated a couple blocks away from an industrial plaza. The line of old degraded and rusted buildings that were once populated with the large steel working companies now laid empty. Other buildings were still lingering on trying to provide work to those they could. The housing that lined these factories were also degraded to the point that the city wished to condemn them, yet they were still housing residents. Edward made his way down the flight of stairs that lead to the side walk and began his journey through the neighborhood of rotting houses. Most of the properties he knew were owned by slum lords who took advantage of those that have fallen prey to drug addiction. Not keeping the properties up to code allowed the property owners to pocket more money, and they knew that these people would never involve the cops in any matter legal or otherwise. As Edward walked along the road he looked around at his surroundings and began to think to himself, “Why would anyone be dumb enough to rent these forsaken places? Is it because they don’t care or is it because they cannot afford better housing? No, it is because they are worse denominator of society. They band together to sell, make, and provide drugs of every kind to those who have no meaning left in their lives. A person without work is a person without aspirations, and those who do not have to aspire to any higher purpose will sink into a black depth that will swallow them whole until death takes them in a euphoric state provided by the chemical compounds pulsing through their exacerbated veins. Why try when things become hard, when life shits on everything you have accomplished, and then kicks you while you are down. If happiness is truly a chemical process is it not easier to artificially increase such a pleasure and focus on the momentary feeling rather than putting in the hours, days, weeks, and months of sacrifices necessary for the prize only found on the other side of the rainbow. Even if one can identify where the prize is, most will never achieve the attainment of such a prize”.
A loud bang startled Edward as he passed one of the ever-degrading houses which lined the street on either side of him. He directed his gaze to where the noise had originated from, and saw an elderly man who must have looked to be eighty-five or ninety years old. Hunched over, yellowed and blackened teeth, military tattoos running down his forearms, and a close buzz cut were the characteristics of this man; characteristics, which suited many people in this part of town. When Edward focused his attention on the man he was astonished to recognize that this was no old man; rather, a drug and labor beaten man in his mid-forties. As Edward continued to walk pass the house where the man was standing, smoking his morning allowance of weed, all he could do was shake his head slowly and once again return to his contemplations. “Why do people stay in this place? Why do they come back? Why do they not leave and aspire to be more than what they are? Roots perhaps have something to do with it. People are always saying that, ‘A man needs to be grounded, to have roots in a place so as to make a life and living’. This may very well have been true in the 1950’s when factory and line jobs could support one’s life. However, now in today’s world, these jobs are gone to automation and foreign work forces. These dwindling people are slow to realize that the game has changed, and unless they adapt to fit the market place, they will never achieve or thrive in the ever-changing world. Roots in a place, a since of community, a grounding in time and space, these are all things that are import to the psychological and social conditions of human beings. But Does a tree grow well in soil when there are no longer enough nutrients to support the tree’s needs? Can a large tree grow and become stable if the soil around it is not packed tightly keeping it upright? Can a productive and moral person be conditioned if the necessary factors are not present?”
By this point, Edward was making his way over the viaduct which crossed over the railroad. He stopped once he reached the top and looked out over the hand rail. He peered down and gauged that he was about 60 feet up from the train rails which were surrounded by rocks and gravel. His backpack was beginning to weigh him down, the books always weighed the most. He dropped a rock and counted the seconds it took to hit the ground below. As he stood there in the eerie, early morning hours of the day, he began to contemplate the value of one’s life and how the value is determined. “Is there such a thing as innate value? If there is, does life qualify for such an honor? Or is value derived from those who place the value on the object? This is often how painting and artistic items derive value. Not from a set price point, but from the meaning which the buyer places on the piece. Freud wrote about human beings having a Death Drive, could such an idea have any validity? And what about the other great thinkers who all argued for theories of determinism? If there is no such thing as free will, is there any way for me to better myself and create a better life for myself? If not and if my determined trajectory is to a place of negative being, then why should I prolong the inevitable truth that all beings must face in the end.” Edward climbed up onto the hand rail. He balanced himself on the large cylindrical pipe, while using one hand to hold onto a nearby lamp post. The young man stood there looking out across the horizon, then down at the ground which resided such a long way below him. With that, Edward let go of the lamp post and stepped off the railing…