Jim Simon: Challenge to college freshmen: Seek the truth
Friday Sep 7, 2018 at 5:00 AM
On my first day of classes in my freshman year long ago, a professor about to give a lecture in what would be a perspective-altering class in western civilization said, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Denison University. I have one piece of advice for you. Be educated, not indoctrinated.”
That pithy advice stuck with me to this day.
The challenge, however, has grown greater in these times.
You already know how polarizing social media can be, and depending on the biases of family members and friends you may think it’s almost impossible to know where the truth lies. Some of your professors will add to the confusion, too, and it reflects the fact that they, like the rest of us, live in a bubble, with some good and some wrong-headed PC views that come with it.
>>Join The Columbus Dispatch Conversation and tell us what you think about what’s going on in our community.
In addition to the truth-seeking challenge, you may suffer from anxiety regarding making new friends, pressure to drink and party, homesickness, sexual relations and personal safety and security. Plus many of you will be saddled with big student loans by the time you graduate. No pressure, huh?
So how can you handle all that while getting the education you need to succeed in work and life?
Most people who make it have two main advantages going for them: They’ve developed a big-picture view of their world and they have good social IQ. Those advantages enable them to manage change, which is what every species on this planet must do to survive and thrive.
Here are some tips for how you can attain those two advantages.
• The more you challenge yourself academically, the better. While it may be easier to achieve a higher grade-point average by taking courses that play to your strengths, you’ll build better critical-thinking, problem-solving and situational judgment skills if you also try courses outside your comfort zone. They can benefit you more than you know later in life. (I’m a good example, as a course I took in geology to satisfy a science requirement helped me later land a job with a mining company). If you’re a left-brain type, take liberal-arts courses, and if you’re a right-brain type, take courses in economics and STEM subjects. Think of this as a “brain diversification” move that will help you develop that big-picture viewpoint and make you more appealing to future employers.
• Seek out those with different backgrounds. Getting to know them will help you develop a better social IQ. Rooting together for your college sports teams and forming a diverse study group may be the best ways to start. Understand and help people and they will understand and help you. The more diverse the makeup of your “tribe,” the better a perspective you’ll develop on people and cultures. As you enter a workforce that’s the most diverse in history, you’ll be glad you cast a wide net socially. A related tip: Maximize your chances for in-person socializing by resisting the temptation to default to your handheld device when you might be feeling uncomfortable with others. That addictive cell phone may be your biggest impediment to developing your social IQ.
• Beyond learning occupational skills and making friends, know that what matters most over a lifetime are standards of behavior. You can’t go wrong by adhering to the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. If you do that, you and your peers will make the world a more fair-minded, collaborative, less-polarized place.
• Every generation has its issues with society. To date, yours will include gender, race, immigration, disease, the environment, income inequality and adequate income for future retirement, “cold” and “hot” wars, and privacy. You’ll be a better citizen of your country and the world if you keep an open mind, and your college years may be the best proving ground for that effort. Listen attentively, question authority respectfully, check the facts, engage those whose views differ from yours, focus more on logic than emotion, and you’ll be a superior leader, employee, spouse, parent and citizen. You’ll also be educated, not indoctrinated.
One more thing: Never stop trying to improve. It’s how you’ll continuously advance yourself and the world you will someday lead.
Jim Simon is a central Ohio resident and former chief communications officer of several corporations.