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People often claim that a liberal arts college education teaches young people “how to think,” but what does this maxim really mean, and why does it matter? In this unique and persuasive commencement address, delivered to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College, American novelist, essayist and professor David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) raises intriguing points about the barriers to empathy in adult life, the difficulty of resisting the “natural default setting” of self-centeredness and the true meaning of “freedom.” getAbstract recommends Wallace’s call to action to those working in higher education and everyone interested in self-development.

About the Author

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) was an American fiction author, essayist and professor at Emerson College, Illinois State University and Pomona College. His most famous work is the 1996 novel, Infinite Jest.

 

Summary

People often claim that a liberal arts college education teaches young people “how to think” – but what does this maxim really mean, and why does it really matter? The real “learning” skills that higher education develops are not the ability to think, but rather, the capacity to make conscious decisions on “how and what you think” about yourself, the world and the people you encounter every day.

Just as a fish can swim without realizing he’s in water, individuals sometimes believe their uncritical, selfish worldview...


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