By Jeppe Damberg
October 2nd, 2017
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]Recently, I have thought about why certain education matters. Or more specifically, why certain education seems to matter more than others – what needs justification and what does not.
Most students are not aware of what they want to study when they arrive here as Firsties. They might be lost, confused and in need of guidance. I was lucky enough to know what I liked — economics, literature, writing, history — but I also knew what other people liked — hard, pre-professional routes with clear paths of success. In such an environment it is easy to begin doubting your own interests and passions, unsure if the path you want to take is a path even worth taking.
I have had an interest in language since a Danish teacher introduced me to Henrik Pontoppidan years ago, and when I find myself writing, be it for this paper or simply a letter to my family, I find myself in a moment of genuine passion. But I often write while my friends study Mathematics or Chemistry – classes which one could say would actually prepare them for jobs in the future. Each time, a nagging voice in my head tells me that I am doing somehow less, not worthy, a waste of time.
There have been more instances like this, in which I question or have to justify what I do to myself and to others. What is the value of spending all night reading a novel? Could it get me an internship one day? Probably not. In college, English majors, or in fact most humanities majors, can tell you that they are often asked why they do what they do. What is the value of your education and how will it help you in the “real world?” This is a question that can haunt me, and I think most of us.
It seems that every choice we make concerning our education comes down to a cost-benefit analysis, a price tag with a clear value written out on it. We do not take classes if we have calculated that it will not fit into the right “package” of six classes. A “package” that we one day are going to show a college’s admissions office, and so we are scared that our “package” isn’t rigid enough or doesn’t have the proper “synergy”. Beyond college requirements, we choose classes that we think will make our “package” more attractive to that particular college. To me, this attitude has created a cutthroat professional environment, where the choice of what classes to pick and what CAS to do rarely comes down to what we like. An environment where students change classes faster than the IB coordinators can keep up because they feel obligated to study certain classes other than those they enjoy.
I believe that the focus on straight-forward, calculated “packages” of study has caused us to devalue the humanities, the arts and our our inherent longing for humanistic endeavours. When we do everything for a pre-professional purpose, we lose sight of what makes us human and what connects us to each other. Amidst a pre-professional atmosphere, which isn’t necessarily all bad, there should be a community that encourages artistic growth. Art, for the sake of art, is important.
To the Firsties who might still be unsure about their subject package I say: considering the requirements for what you want to do in college is wise, but ask yourself whether that stems with what you enjoy doing.
Jeppe Damberg was a student at United World College Maastricht 2016-2018. He founded the Flying Dutchman in 2017.