One of the most important aspects of higher education that I feel is often forgotten, especially in my field of engineering, is teaching students how to be better members of society. Engineers can get so caught up in the details of their studies that they can forget that the whole point of engineering is to improve the everyday lives of people. One of my favorite musicians, a bass player by the name of Victor Wooten, gave a commencement speech at the University of Vermont and in it he talks about something that his mother used to tell him and his brothers when they were younger:
What does the world need with another good musician? Mom, would say, ‘we have plenty. What the world needs is good people.’
This was very insightful and I believe that it extends to all professions. Yes, the world needs good scientists, teachers, doctors and many other professions, but I believe that to truly have a positive impact on the world one must first be a good person. I think that a holistic view of the way we educate people needs to become more prevalent, particularly in the sciences. We need to teach young engineers to not just create new technologies or make discoveries, but to think about how their work benefits society. Furthermore, I believe that in general we need to encourage people to evaluate how the decisions they make and the way in which they live their lives impact the people and world around them.
Selfishness and a lack of understanding are prevalent in modern society. People say that they care about reducing pollution, preventing global climate change, making an impact on world poverty and equality, and many other important ethical issues. But I feel that it far too often ends there, with just something they say and not actions to help change these problems. I think that until people are willing to sacrifice some of their own time, money and convenience to make more conscientious decisions about how they live their lives these global issues are going to prevail. I am truly hoping that the education systems can help to create this shift by teaching people to consider their own impact on the world. As members of the human race, I believe that we all have the responsibility of taking care of those who do are less fortunate than ourselves and to preserve the environment for future generations. In short, we have the responsibility of being good people.