Empathy and a moral education dictate opportunities for the futureBy Patrick Crowley | 12/04/2014 2:16am
What is lost sometimes to each of us, including myself, in the doldrums of academics and the fun of social activities is that we, as students, are beyond lucky and fortunate to attend The University of Alabama. Our attendance here and hopeful attainment of a degree already distinguishes us from a vast majority of Americans who do not possess higher education degrees. Nationwide, only 31 percent of people hold bachelor’s degrees, while in the state of Alabama around 25 percent hold college degrees.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that we are all more likely to be employed, stay employed for longer and earn more than those without college degrees. According to the Federal Reserve of San Francisco, there is an $830,000 lifetime earning difference between people with a college degree and people with a high school degree.
C ollege isn’t solely about a better financial future, though. Certainly the daily message that we all hear from society – and just heard from me – and slowly come to believe is that college is merely a stepping stone to a job and future financial success. That hyper-career-focused message discounts the importance of a moral education, which is about building an integrated self, developing character and flourishing empathy for others.
Failure to fully engage in a moral education while in college precludes future moral development, for where else than college are we all encouraged and permitted to throw ourselves recklessly at a diverse array of people and learn from them as they learn from us? It is here in college that a diversity of thoughts and contradictory ideals challenge us to grow, think and develop. Also, only in college can you be absolutely wrong about something, be full of conviction about it and not be fired or kicked out of a place.
Eventually, what we will d o and how we will act will impact not only our own lives in significant ways but also the lives of others. We can either utilize our education to imagine better for ourselves and those in need or we can callously ignore the plights and burdens placed unfairly on others. If we choose not to exercise our innate power of empathy, we numb ourselves and reduce our own meaning of life . But by choosing to learn from others even if we believe they are wrong, by empathizing with those around us and by helping those with less through our resources and education, we enhance the meaning of our own lives and make the lives of others a little bit better.
The critical importance of a moral education in today’s society is self-evident since the education of the past reflects present circumstances. National politics has devolved into an international embarrassment with both sides doing nothing except slam the other side – thinking along the lines of “it’s not my fault but always your fault” doesn’t help, either. The current economic and tax systems favor and shield the wealthy rather than support and help the poor. Indeed, inequality in America and the world is at its greatest point in history. Such great wealth disparity between those with and those without reduces future economic and social opportunities for us all.
Individually, we all too often cloister ourselves off from each other and burrow ourselves into holes of intellectual comfort with the aid of the Internet and biased media. We truly no longer have to hear the opinions, experiences and viewpoints that contradict our own. We can just turn on, tune in and drop out.
What all of this amounts to is that society is gradually becoming less empathetic, less caring about others and less moral. Higher education is supposed to lessen that problem and generate within us all the insurmountable belief that we can help those around us and be people of outstanding integrity. We are indeed lucky to attend The University of Alabama. Right now, this campus and the greater state of Alabama stand at a crossroads of opportunities where the past meets the future. Although our history is filled with injustices and dark days, there will be better days moving forward because we are students here on this campus and in this state: a future built on empathy and moral education.
Patrick Crowley is a senior majoring in mathematics, finance and economics. He is the opinions editor of The Crimson White.