Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I often enjoy David Brooks' columns in the NYT, here is a particular quote of a quote for today:

"In 2005, Ryne Sandberg was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. Heclo cites his speech as an example of how people talk when they are defined by their devotion to an institution:

'I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.'”

However, I disagree with Brooks' assertion that we must return to a culture more reliant upon institutional thinking. I am still a big believer in the philosophy of a liberal education, as Brooks points out:

"A few years ago, a faculty committee at Harvard produced a report on the purpose of education. “The aim of a liberal education” the report declared, “is to unsettle presumptions, to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to disorient young people and to help them to find ways to reorient themselves.”
The report implied an entire way of living. 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."

Whether we devote ourselves to individualistic "thinking" or institutional "thinking" is not even the point; both labels describe certain automatic behaviors. We need to be capable of thinking (and I say this in italics) in a consciously unbiased manner instead of blindly following our own needs or conforming to the demands of society.

1 comment:

anonymouscomments said...

The more nonconformist we become, the less nonconformist we end up being. It's just the same with cynicism.

Beyond automatic behaviors, thinking (in italics) can hardly be any more unbiased than it is pretentious and self-serving...

...but please don't mistake my argumentative nausea for any real disagreement with what you're saying. :)