The Quest for Purpose: The Collegiate Search for a Meaningful Life

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 Demonstrates how students and educators can resist narrow, utilitarian views of higher education’s purpose.
While the search for meaning and purpose appears to be a constant throughout human history, there are characteristics about our current time period that make this search different from any other previous time, particularly for college students. In this book, Perry L. Glanzer, Jonathan P. Hill, and Byron R. Johnson explore college students’ search for meaning and purpose and the role that higher education plays. To shed empirical light on this complex issue, the authors draw on in-depth interviews with four hundred college students from different types of institutions across the United States. They also analyze three sets of national survey data: the National Study of Youth and Religion, College Students Beliefs and Values, and their own Gallup-conducted survey of 2,500 college students. Their research identifies important social, educational, and cultural influences that shape students’ quests and the answers they find. Arguing against a utilitarian view of education, Glanzer, Hill, and Johnson conclude that colleges and universities can and should cultivate and aid students in their journeys, and they offer suggestions for doing so.
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About the author

 Perry L. Glanzer is Professor of Educational Foundations at Baylor University and a Resident Scholar with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. His books include Restoring the Soul of the University: Unifying Christian Higher Education in a Fragmented Age (coauthored with Nathan F. Alleman and Todd C. Ream). Jonathan P. Hill is Associate Professor of Sociology at Calvin College and the coauthor (with Christian Smith, Kyle Longest, and Kari Christoffersen) of Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church. Byron R. Johnson is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University and the author of More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Aug 7, 2017
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Pages
413
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ISBN
9781438466866
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Higher
Education / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
Religion / Spirituality
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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 Do you know who - and what - you are? Do you know who you're meant to be? Do you know how to find the answers to questions like these? Knowledge of Self is the result of a process of self-discovery, but few of us know where to begin when we're ready to start looking deeper. Although self-actualization is the highest of all human needs, it is said that only 5% of people ever attain this goal. In the culture of the Nation of Gods and Earths, commonly known as the Five Percent, students are instructed that they must first learn themselves, then their worlds, and then what they must do in order to transform their world for the better. This often intense process has produced thousands of revolutionary thinkers in otherwise desperate environments, where poverty and hopelessness dominate. Until now, few mainstream publications have captured the brilliant yet practical perspectives of these luminary men and women. Knowledge of Self: A Collection of Writings on the Science of Everything in Life presents the thoughts of Five Percenters, both young and old, male and female, from all over the globe, in their own words. Through essays, poems, and even how-to articles, this anthology presents readers with an accurate portrait of what the Five Percent study and teach, as well as sound direction on how to answer timeless questions like: Who am I, and why am I here? Why is there so much injustice in the world, and what can be done about it? Who is God and where on Earth is he? How do I improve myself without losing myself? Why are people of color in the situations they're in? What can we do about the global problems of racism and poverty?
CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria argues for a renewed commitment to the world’s most valuable educational tradition.

The liberal arts are under attack. The governors of Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have all pledged that they will not spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts, and they seem to have an unlikely ally in President Obama. While at a General Electric plant in early 2014, Obama remarked, "I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree." These messages are hitting home: majors like English and history, once very popular and highly respected, are in steep decline.

"I get it," writes Fareed Zakaria, recalling the atmosphere in India where he grew up, which was even more obsessed with getting a skills-based education. However, the CNN host and best-selling author explains why this widely held view is mistaken and shortsighted.

Zakaria eloquently expounds on the virtues of a liberal arts education—how to write clearly, how to express yourself convincingly, and how to think analytically. He turns our leaders' vocational argument on its head. American routine manufacturing jobs continue to get automated or outsourced, and specific vocational knowledge is often outdated within a few years. Engineering is a great profession, but key value-added skills you will also need are creativity, lateral thinking, design, communication, storytelling, and, more than anything, the ability to continually learn and enjoy learning—precisely the gifts of a liberal education.

Zakaria argues that technology is transforming education, opening up access to the best courses and classes in a vast variety of subjects for millions around the world. We are at the dawn of the greatest expansion of the idea of a liberal education in human history.

The Academic Revolution describes the rise to power of professional scholars and scientists, first in America's leading universities and now in the larger society as well. Without attempting a full-scale history of American higher education, it outlines a theory about its development and present status. It is illustrated with firsthand observations of a wide variety of colleges and universities the country over-colleges for the rich and colleges for the upwardly mobile; colleges for vocationally oriented men and colleges for intellectually and socially oriented women; colleges for Catholics and colleges for Protestants; colleges for blacks and colleges for rebellious whites.

The authors also look at some of the revolution's consequences. They see it as intensifying conflict between young and old, and provoking young people raised in permissive, middle-class homes to attacks on the legitimacy of adult authority. In the process, the revolution subtly transformed the kinds of work to which talented young people aspire, contributing to the decline of entrepreneurship and the rise of professionalism. They conclude that mass higher education, for all its advantages, has had no measurable effect on the rate of social mobility or the degree of equality in American society.

Jencks and Riesman are not nostalgic; their description of the nineteenth-century liberal arts colleges is corrosively critical. They maintain that American students know more than ever before, that their teachers are more competent and stimulating than in earlier times, and that the American system of higher education has brought the American people to an unprecedented level of academic competence. But while they regard the academic revolution as having been an historically necessary and progressive step, they argue that, like all revolutions, it can devour its children. For Jencks and Riesman, academic professionalism is an advance over amateur gentility, but they warn of its dangers and limitations: the elitism and arrogance implicit in meritocracy, the myopia that derives from a strictly academic view of human experience and understanding, the complacency that comes from making technical competence an end rather than a means.

Christopher Jencks is Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty and the Underclass, The Homeless, and co-editor of The Black-White Text Score Gap.

David Riesman is Henry Ford II Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Harvard University. He is the author of Thorstein Veblen, Abundance for What, The Lonely Crowd, and Variety in American Education.
A groundbreaking manifesto about what our nation’s top schools should be—but aren’t—providing: “The ex-Yale professor effectively skewers elite colleges, their brainy but soulless students (those ‘sheep’), pushy parents, and admissions mayhem” (People).

As a professor at Yale, William Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation’s brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively and how to find a sense of purpose. Now he argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.

Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counselors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw firsthand as a member of Yale’s admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the humanities to “practical” subjects like economics, students are losing the ability to think independently. It is essential, says Deresiewicz, that college be a time for self-discovery, when students can establish their own values and measures of success in order to forge their own paths. He features quotes from real students and graduates he has corresponded with over the years, candidly exposing where the system is broken and offering clear solutions on how to fix it.

“Excellent Sheep is likely to make…a lasting mark….He takes aim at just about the entirety of upper-middle-class life in America….Mr. Deresiewicz’s book is packed full of what he wants more of in American life: passionate weirdness” (The New York Times).
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