What Life Asks of Us

A column in the NYTimes that offers a very different perspective from what we might think of as the goal of a liberal education:
"Individuals should learn to think for themselves. They should be skeptical of pre-existing arrangements. They should break free from the way they were raised, examine life from the outside and discover their own values." (from What Life Asks of Us)

Sounds very common sense. I found myself nodding in agreement, feeling that this matched more or less how I saw things. But then he introduces a different view espoused in a book that came out last summer called On Thinking Institutionally (On Politics) by the political scientist Hugh Heclo.

"In this way of living, to borrow an old phrase, we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. As we go through life, we travel through institutions — first family and school, then the institutions of a profession or a craft.

Each of these institutions comes with certain rules and obligations that tell us how to do what we’re supposed to do. Journalism imposes habits that help reporters keep a mental distance from those they cover. Scientists have obligations to the community of researchers. In the process of absorbing the rules of the institutions we inhabit, we become who we are." (from What Life Asks of Us)
Thought provoking. Read the article. I am ordering the book On Thinking Institutionally (On Politics)

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Posted on January 30, 2009 and filed under Life.