Article of Note: The Good Life

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed shares research on how “good life courses” can prepare undergraduate students for more productive and meaningful lives.

Kristina Callina, Alicia Lynch, and Michael Murray conducted interviews with and collected survey data from professors and their students from 14 colleges and universities to determine if such courses work and how they work. They report their findings and explore the rising interest in such courses across the country in “Teaching the Good Life” (September 19, 2023). They identify “the essential pedagogical features of good life courses, how they impact students’ sense of purpose and well-being, and what educators can do to optimize successful implementation of good life courses at their postsecondary institutions.”

Not only do the findings show that these courses are valuable for students, but they also suggest that such courses can bring new energy to the humanities disciplines that often house and support them.

Stephanie L. Johnson is the editor of Vocation Matters.

Learning and Living Through Awe

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In his recent article in Christian Scholar’s Review, Paul Waddell suggests that every human being is called to live wisely and well. In practical terms, responding to this shared calling means becoming “skillfully attuned, each day, to the myriad ways in which we are summoned out of ourselves in response to the beauty, loveliness, and goodness of the created order—as well as in response to its suffering and affliction.” To me, this sounds at once true, simple, and utterly countercultural, as perhaps simple and true things often are.  

Waddell’s account of growth in wisdom certainly runs counter to what many people these days expect a college education to accomplish. Professors and university administrators are asked by pundits, legislators, parents, and prospective students about placement rates, career-readiness, and trending programs, but not very often about what it means to live well. I personally can’t recall any conversations in which outsiders to the university have asked me if we give students the capacity to be skillfully attuned to beauty and suffering. And the truth is that in an atmosphere of precarity, many of us might prefer simply to focus on “giving them what they want,” which seems to be a clear and comfortable path to a lucrative credential.

Except that we do still talk about learning, and I want to propose that the necessary connection between learning and awe is the reason that college still can and should produce the kind of attunement to calling that Waddell talks about. In fact, if we do learning right, it must at least potentially give students the capacity for living wisely and well.

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