The Public Interest

Souls without longing

Robert C. Bartlett

Winter 2003

THERE is a malaise spreading among America’s college and university students, one that extends into the uppermost reaches of their hearts and minds, robbing them of delights at the moment they seem poised to enjoy them. This malaise leaves students with little direction or lasting desire and restricts their capacity to conceive of a noble and rewarding life; it encourages their pursuit of artificial and extreme joys that somehow always yield to lassitude or disappointment. The direction they should find on campus proves to be as elusive and evanescent as so much else in their lives: Universities have by and large forgotten the Socratic exhortation to “Know Thyself” that must guide an education worthy of the name. As a result, students are ill-equipped to know very much at all, least of all about themselves.

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