I recently completed Josiah Bunting’s An Education for Our Time, in which he is setting forth the founding of a fictional college. The book challenges many modern assumptions concerning education. It also hearkens us back to a time when certain character traits – that we have largely forgotten – were exalted. One of these character traits is that of being “disinterested.” It basically means to not be interested in your own gain or benefit. It is to reject selfish ambition. It is explained a bit better in the following quote from Bunting:

I believe that by having students live at very close quarters, and in a certain way, in a community in which the actions of all somehow touch the lives and interests of all others, we can habituate our young men and women to living disinterested (if not wholly unself-regarding) lives. Every tendency of our age is toward the opposite ethos, one in which all actions are taken only with particular reference to how they will advance the individual, to assure for him the tinsel accolade of celebrity, whose useful recompense is approximately that of a piece of chocolate or cigarette; or to gain him authority, money, or, if he is close to coming unhinged, the ignoble satisfactions of seeing his name placed upon buildings, stadia, interstate access roads, and the like of that. Our student, contrariwise, must find that his duty yields him the satisfactions not of power or invidious distinction, nor of exalted status or money, but only of knowing that he has done is best by and for those who have depended on him, and that he may have done that best, and often, when he did not want to, when he was exhausted, or when he doubted the wisdom of the duty prescribed for him, or when a hundred other obligations competed or his attention. (pp. 37-38).

Advertisements