I’m studying abroad in Paris this semester, so I have the comfort of being outside of the crunch that is the last two weeks of a semester at Middlebury. When I have been in Vermont during this time of year, I have found that for me at least, the intensity of the end of a semester has been surprisingly emotional and thought provoking. Spending so much time concentrating intensely on work, having to say goodbye to friends and not sleeping enough really gets the juices flowing. It’s a bit of a liberal arts crescendo, if you will.
Anyway, a friend of mine pointed me to this article by a recently retired Yale Professor, William Deresiewicz. The article criticizes elite education most notably at Yale, but I find his analysis corresponds in large measure to Middlebury. Deresiezicz’s point that resonates with me the most is the idea that the current system of elite higher education ironically hinders the development of true intellectualism. Money quote: “Only a small minority [of students] have seen their education as part of a larger intellectual journey, have approached the work of the mind with a pilgrim soul.”
To relate this back to Middlebury, I find that these last two weeks of a semester can be a little revelatory, and just in the way Deresiewicz would want them to be. With the buildup of emotions and work, I have found myself thinking about why I am at Middlebury.
If you have a few moments to spare over the next few weeks, I recommend reading Deresiewicz’s article. It may offer a perspective on what’s really important: growing during your formative years and learning to think like an intellectual. At the very least, it is comforting to hear a Professor agree with the sentiment of the late-night conversations that make the College experience what it is—the times when you examine why you are in College and how learning to think is what really matters.