Memories of Awe Episode 9

Liz was excited that Professor McKown had agreed to talk about his own role in the awe experiences he had shared. His role was certainly pivotal, but he tried to downplay it. She hoped to find out why.

LJ: In the stories you have shared with me, you were critical to the awe experiences but you don’t like to talk about your role. Could you tell me what you see as that role?

KMcK:  I think of myself as an enabler. I’m not the one who performs the act that I find awe inspiring. But you’re right, that act of awe might not have happened if I hadn’t been the catalyst that led to the action.

LJ: That makes sense. Why don’t you want me to focus more on that role?

KMcK: The memories of awe that I’ve shared with you are the success stories. I’ve had a lot of failures also. I really struggle helping light the fire in students I call the “whatevers”. Whenever I suggest something or try to encourage them, their response is whatever. I’ve failed to reach too many students to think of myself as some type of guru.

LJBut you’ve certainly had a lot more successes than any other faculty member I know. Can’t you at least be proud of that?

KMcK:  No, I can’t. My colleagues are just doing what the university asks of them. They publish papers, get research grants, and go to conferences. That’s what the university values.

LJI can’t imagine the outcomes of the lives you have reached if you weren’t there. Doesn’t that mean anything?

KMcK:  Let me ask you a question. How often have you seen an awe inspiring story on any university communication?

LJ: Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen anything like the stories you share. I wonder why that is?

KMcK: It’s because we’ve lost a sense of the true purpose of what education should be about. We should be about transforming lives. Some of that comes from what we teach in our classes, but there’s much more. We don’t accept responsibility for preparing students for purposeful living. Nor do we accept responsibility for helping them through crisis moments in their lives.

LJ: I’ll ask my question again. I wonder why that is?

KMcK:  It’s because the true transformative values of higher education can’t be measured. We live in a society today where the things you measure are the only things that matter.

LJ: I must say this has been very revealing. Our universities across the country have lost their why.

KMcK:  Yes, they have.

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“Creative experiences that leave you in awe, for these will be the highlights of your life.” – Ryan Blair (entrepreneur)

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