In the acknowledgements of my IS I left a note for my Mom and Dad: “Few are the parents that recognize the value in a child trained not specifically for any one job, but a child who sees the potential in every person and idea.” I reached a tipping point my sophomore year where I considered leaving Woo amidst a coming-of-age/identity crisis. My reasoning went something like “look at this mountain of debt I’ll be in and as a physics major, how will I ever find a job to pay off that debt?” I was missing the whole point of studying at a liberal arts school – a really good one at that. In my four years, I have seen a complete and total shift in student’s attitudes towards their Wooster education where we obsess over the future but fail to realize we’re all flowing downstream.
We all want to know how we can do the best in our classes so we can achieve the highest level of prestige later in life. This isn’t your fault; we all have great expectations and families who want us to get the best job or attend a top graduate school. Not to mention the fear of failing a class and our crammed schedules. We’re all obsessed with the right answers and because of the institutionalized nature of education, learning has become less about curiosity and patience and more about efficiency and productivity. I’m not trying to tear down the system, but I want all Wooster students to start to ask the questions “Why the $70,000 price tag? Why is education so intertwined with the idea of productivity? Why have I seen students leave a professor’s office hours in tears because they couldn’t get one problem right?”
Wooster is a reality to be experienced. I have this thought process where I imagine removing all of the drama, stress and striving from this place. Then, I imagine all of the people here and all of its history as a river (poetic, right?). There is an energy and passing of time unique to Wooster that all of us have glimpsed once or twice, but ultimately fail to flow with. Maybe you glimpsed it at a party or on a weekend in the fall when the absurdity of it all flashed across your mind and left you numb but stuck in a moment. It’s like Po’s inner peace journey in “Kung Fu Panda” in that you can only flow when you least expect it.
Wooster – its faculty, staff, student body and energy – is not at peace. The river we’re all floating down has lost its ocean. Our administration is making decisions that have dammed up our river, but our lives are so stressful on their own that we’re forgetting how to let go of the dangling tree branch and break the dam. I envision a bunch of rubber duckies bunching up against the dam before wondering how they got there.
In plain terms, Wooster and the liberal arts education are not designed to give you your life’s purpose or a job. It is designed to help us all meander down the same river. For me, I was too focused on not having enough and being fulfilled when I left Wooster. The reality was that I was too focused on the next thing or thinking I was better than Wooster. I love this place and all of the people I have met here, and, without sounding like an alarmist, I would like to implore all of you to help Wooster find its ocean again since we’re all downstream from someone.