John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Hedonism—or What’s the Alternative?

September 21, 2011John N. GardnerInsights0
John Gardner
President

For any thinking consumer of world news, let alone the domestic front news, it seems to me that there is very little that we can count on. The once exalted credit rating of the US downgraded. The failure of US foreign policy throughout the Middle East. The Euro based economy about to collapse.  US Republicans pursuing financially disastrous fiscal policies. Hundreds of points up or down each day on the Dow Jones. Instability everywhere.  What is a college student to think about this? Or, is a college student to think about this? For those that do, what are choices?
The future certainly doesn’t look good even for some of the very best educated. The old certainties in vocational choice (e.g. the security of public service sector jobs with their public sector pensions) are no longer certain. So what is a thoughtful college student to do? Just keep plugging along and hope for the best? Work even harder to leverage the odds of eventually rising to the very top? Job prospects look terrible after getting a bachelors? So just keep on going and get a graduate degree? Or, how about an alternative?
How about abandoning obsessive work and worry and just party on the Titanic? How about the pursuit of hedonism? I predict that we are going to see many more students taking this route. Moreover, I certainly wouldn’t blame them. I wonder what I would do if I were just starting, or finishing, undergraduate school.
When I was in college, there was the draft followed by the Vietnam build up.  There was also the Civil Rights movement, the anti-poverty movement, the women’s movement, the students’ rights movement, and young people my age were volunteering for VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and the Peace Corps. I eventually volunteered for the Air Force. I never considered the hedonistic route, and I don’t regret that now. But, I certainly wouldn’t question students who do choose hedonism today. Just as I don’t question students who keep the faith, push on, stay on track, and volunteer for all sorts of things now to try to continue the improvement of our country. But, mark my words, literally, this year will see the higher ed press with lots more reportage on hedonistic behaviors on the campus.

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