In the New York Times, May 28, David Brooks lamented on the "Strange Failure of the Educated Elite," people high in narcissism and low in social connection, people who "lack a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self." The educated elite have gone wrong by indulging in an ideology of meritocracy and a system built on the maximization of individual talent that encourages "ruinous beliefs," such as valuing the wrong kind of intelligence: misplacing faith in autonomy; conceiving the self as based on achievement, not character; dissing institutions for individual success; seeing diversity as an endpoint, rather than a midpoint.
In my experience of nearly 30 years at several of these universities, I know that much of this is sadly true. I've spent much of my energy in recent years addressing the ways in which our "best" universities are failing our students. I've learned about other kinds of intelligence that I now value in my teaching, such as emotional intelligence, women's intelligence, and indigenous intelligence. I've come to value creativity, listening, and wisdom--intelligence of the heart and hands.
My evolving understanding of how deeply the individual is connected with others, encourage me to build communities at home, at work, close to home, and even venturing off to other parts of the world to do the same. I see success as doing our best with what we've got in ways that nourish our souls and the lives of others. I believe in developing moral systems that create harmony within us, and harmony between "us" and "them."
I've moved beyond valuing diversity to creating real inclusion. With my students, we assert that we are not the marginal, not the minority, not the "Other," but central. We declare that "We are the university." and are redefining it in our image.
My teaching experiences have led me to engage students in transformative learning and healing in community. We come together mindfully, just being present, connecting through sharing parts of ourselves, what makes us human, experiencing how what is most personal is also universal, resonating with and accepting others and feeling the joy of just being together in community. We are aware that we live life embedded in community, that we owe a debt to others and that we can find meaning and purpose in putting service and responsibility before self.