The purpose of this blog post is to state one thing I believe should change in higher education. That is an interesting topic. While in general I feel there is much that could be improved there is also much that is positive. However, the single most obvious aspect of my experience here at Virginia Tech that has bothered me is a philosophical one. Though challenging to describe fully in this forum I will give it a try.
Simply put, I feel that students should be taught not to believe in their thoughts. At the university, regardless of discipline, we are taught to believe in and to develop beliefs in our thoughts. I see nothing wrong with learning to develop ways to think, especially on technical matters. However, ultimately, it can be observed that we can think anything we want and call it true. We can see this in the myriad social, political, and religious groups… each so powerfully tied to their own versions of the truth. Deep inside, we realize that thoughts are only thoughts. They are subject to change at a whim. The thought we feel so powerfully about one day can be nearly forgotten the next. It is this fleeting nature of thinking that reveals its importance. Given the nature of thoughts we expend great energy defending them.
Learning to set our minds on a certain perspective, which is a violence we do to ourselves, is a form of conditioning. I feel this is very dangerous on a personal as well a societal collective level. Since any thought is temporary… momentary… it requires great energy to maintain any given perspective long after it has diminished. The words “life” and “change” are truly synonymous. If one is open to the current moment, then to land on a set of thoughts distances us from the changes within us and outside us as they occur. Thoughts by their very nature are extremely seductive. They usually dominate our lives. But thoughts are also only symbols based upon accumulated past experiences. In being dominated by our thoughts we lose our connection with each unique present moment.
It seems that to teach young people how to use their thoughts for the tools they are and yet not to be dominated by them… fixated upon them… would dynamically change the face of the university and our society in general. Instead of producing graduates with highly conditioned minds the university could be producing young people who are extraordinarily aware of the present moment… ones who might break free of their conditioning. I feel this would produce a very different and improved world… as opposed to one that is currently primarily based upon thought, which is the past… which is violent.