An exceptional speech entitled “Renewing the Wellsprings of Responsibility,” was given in 2009 by Dr. Nathan O. Hatch, President of Wake Forest University. The immediate context was the collapse of the housing industry and associated sectors:
The current economic turmoil is taking its toll on jobs and psyches on Wall Street and on Main Street. It will also slam shut the easy routes to fame and fortune that many students have enjoyed. But now we’re left with the question: what happens when the rewards aren’t there? When the applause stops and the checks shrivel?
Students will be forced to reassess what’s at their core. What are their values? Have they found the deeper meaning in what they plan to do? I suspect that many career choices have been rooted in a paycheck and a craving for accolades and esteem, rather than a passion for a particular type of work. Can this crisis be a wake-up call for students to face the challenge posed by William James: “The great use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.”
The disjunction he sees between life and work has led psychologist Howard Gardner to launch a major collaborative project called “Good Work.” The aim is to explore ways in which students and professionals in every field can do work that is both high-quality and imbued with an underlying sense of purpose and commitment to improving society. Dr. Gardner has developed a non-credit seminar for freshmen at Harvard, “Meaningful Work in a Meaningful Life.” Fundamental question in these courses include “To whom are you responsible?” and “What makes you trustworthy?”7
The Teagle Foundation, led by W. Robert Connor, has also been engaged in an initiative to engage colleges and faculty in posing for students “the big questions” of meaning and value. The project is premised on the sharp divorce between student and faculty expectations. A broad-based survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA in 2005 found very high levels of religious practice and interest among students. But a relatively small proportion of students indicated satisfaction with how their college experience provided “opportunities for religious/spiritual development.” Sixty-two percent said their professors never encourage discussion of spiritual or religious issues.
Read the whole thing.
HT: Tim Keller, in Counterfeit Gods