Memories of Awe Episode 25

As Liz was reviewing her interview notes, she was struck by the fact that rarely did Professor McKown ever mention academics. Was there a relationship between a person’s academic performance and that person’s mind set toward acts of moral beauty? She wanted to focus the next question on this dimension of awe.

LJ: Do you find that how a person performs in class having any bearing on the character of that person, as you have described when you talk about moral beauty?

KMcK: The short answer is no. I’ve seen outstanding students having the character traits leading to moral beauty, but I’ve also seen those with not so good grades with those traits. The key is how they live their lives.

Let me share with you the story of Ashley. She really struggled in the theoretical courses because her mind was more practically focused. In more practical, project courses she was excellent.

Our university has a number of volunteer programs. They are billed as resume boosters and are mostly populated with honors students looking to build their resume. Ashley joined up to volunteer by helping an older gentleman. He could no longer drive, so Ashley took him to where he needed to go. She checked in with him each day. He had a son, but his son had virtually no contact with his father. One week, Ashley took the gentleman to the hospital for tests. His doctor said that he had a very short amount of time to live. Obviously, Ashley was very upset and really struggled with this news.

LJ: I can’t even imagine how tough that must have been. How was she able to cope with that and her academic struggles?

KMcK: Actually, her academics improved. Her friend had always asked about her grades. She started doing better as a tribute to him, but she did struggle with his death.

After Ashley’s friend died, she had a tough time for a while. I kept reminding her of the difference she had made in his life. That’s the true measure of an individual: Did you make a difference in the lives of others?

LJ: Ok, now I can ask: What’s the rest of the story?

KMcK: You’re catching on.

By the beginning of her senior year, Ashley already had two job offers. Eventually she had more offers than many of her classmates with much higher GPAs.

We often put too much stress on grades and ignore the complete development of our students. Ashley is representative of the graduates that make me proud. She has career skills. She is a caring person. She is a professional in every way. She has “it”, and “it” is not only reflected in a GPA.

As our higher education system has become more credential oriented and ratings-focused, we are pushing aside the Ashley’s in favor of the star students. I hope that our society will always give the Ashley’s a chance.

LJ: You’ve really triggered a whole new line of thinking for me. Next time, I’d like to explore the motivation for character that leads to acts of moral beauty.

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“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” – Albert Schweitzer

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