Liberal Arts Improves Us for Society
Rarely are we fortunate to get a glimpse into a brilliant mind as it grows closer to its inevitable super nova burnout and self-destruction. Before David Foster Wallace took his life in 2008, he gave us an insight into his personal hell with the “Kenyon Commencement Speech” in 2005. During this commencement speech he discusses the use of a broad base knowledge curriculum that transforms people into understanding and productive citizens. I agree that a liberal arts education helps us change our “default settings.”
When Wallace says “default settings” he means the way we are born to think. Our “default setting” is the belief that we are the center of the universe. I believe this is true because I often have these selfish thoughts. I have them every time I have to wait at the doctor’s office, or clean up after my roommate, or be stuck listening to a cashier talk about their woes when all I want is to get back to my dorm room. How can I not? This is my time their wasting. I have stuff to do. Can’t they see that? Of course they don’t. They too are thinking about themselves. Why care about some eighteen year old girl who is sick with the same symptoms as the last three patients, or about some stranger who’s living in the same dorm room, or about a college student who never has enough time to just eat? Everyone thinks this way. It’s all about the individual. We have to train ourselves to reflect differently to improve our society. Wallace declares, “Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think” (Wallace, 202). He proves his words when he gives an average adult day example. In his illustration of an ordinary day, he depicts an individual waking up in the morning to go to an advance college-graduate job, working eight or ten hours. Then after the exhausting, taxing day, remember the need to go grocery shopping. “The supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time...
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