Thursday, February 3, 2011


Apathy bothers me more than anger . When I'm angry, I understand the cause, see it coming on, and see it dissipate. Apathy is more elusive. Sometimes I get stuck in an apathetic mindset and I don't know how I got there and worse - how to get out. 

Apathy ties in with desensitization - and we are desensitized in so many ways. Video games desensitize us to rampant violence. Comedy on TV desensitizes us to racist, vulgar humor and makes us critical of others. Lack of healthy outlets to release frustration and anger desensitize us to screaming at one another to get a point across. Impersonal communications such as text or social media desensitize us to how we really connect with others. 

And a personally poignant one - school desensitizes us to learning. 

I was navigating through 'apathy' in Wikipedia and I came across Robert Maynard Hutchins, who I hadn't been previously familiar with. Aside from become the Dean of Yale Law School when he was 30 years old, he has a laundry list of impressive life achievements. As an educational philosopher, he spoke about apathy and the disintegration of our generation. 

His book, The University of Utopia, speaks about a world where students learn about the intellectual concepts behind their majors rather than just the skills to simply 'get it done' - where children are first taught how to communicate with one another and then given the ability to choose for themselves what their school of thought will contain. He talks about having a full range of educational classes which focus on comprehension, rather than just 'getting through the class'. He talks about giving degrees to students who prove masterful comprehension, not just show their 120 credits. 

Utopian, indeed.

There is no question that while going through school my main focus was on getting good grades and getting through it. Not to say that I didn't learn anything, but I was more interested in the simple achievement of crossing the finish line than I was with gathering a deep understanding of the topic which so fascinated me - philosophy. I love philosophy and I loved it then - but it's only now that I'm devoting myself to getting to know it better. 

I'm sure those reading this can remember taking a class because it was pre-requisite credits you needed and you heard it was easy. Did it matter what the subject was? Minimally. And it never becomes as full of an experience as it could have been, and you never learn as much as you could have. 

There are so many distractions outside of class - video games, drinking, social scenes, social media, TV, movies - it's hard enough in this generation to keep focused on school. If the emphasis to really cherish the ability to learn isn't there in the professors, how will it be in the students?

Our culture needs to re-sensitize. Not that we have to become blubbering babies or anything, but we need readjust our grip on reality. If we keep pulling ourselves farther and farther away from reality, there's only so much we can handle before we shut off and ignore it all. 

I think the digital culture is a major culprit, but it doesn't have to be. Technology can aid in our evolution and connection to one another - but people struggle to see the reality that surrounds them when a device is in their midst. It seems more important to type what they are doing, in Facebook, than to actually live it. And the motto for the media and corporations, who keep making more and more and more, seems to be, "if it makes money, who cares what it does to our human culture?" 

Ah, I get apathetic just thinking about it. 

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