Education’s Role in the Good Life, and the Environmental Center

By Tristan Kraatz, Local Food Security Team and Philosophy Major

Every other Monday night, the FLC philosophy club hosts talks/discussions from different speakers on a wide range of topics which have included “is democracy actually a good way to run a nation?”, and in the most recent meeting “should a goal of education be to guide us toward the good life?”. Quite an interesting way to spend a Monday night in my opinion. And also a good way to frustrate yourself when you don’t find an answer to the question, which happens more often than not in philosophy. You may now be asking “Tristan, that is all well and good, but what does it have to do with the Environmental Center?” Good question reader! And fear not, I will get there! But I must first do what philosophy majors do best, and clarify the issue.

This question is riddled with philosophical baggage, which we phil majors love to unpack. This includes questions like; what actually is “the good life?”, if education should guide us toward the good life, why and how?, and if not, why not? During the discussion/debate, it seemed to me that everyone in the room agreed on this basic point; education’s main goal is to help people increase their understanding of the world and how it works. Where the people in the discussion differed widely, however, was their answer to the questions above. I will not go into all the nitty gritty details of everyone’s view, but instead just tell you what I think (After some more unpacking).

First of all, there are three ways in which education can go about guiding one towards the good life which were pointed out by a friend during the discussion. First, Education can have the good life be a core principle and design curriculum and have teachers be catalysts for guiding the student towards it, or simply say what the good life is and let the student get there themselves. And lastly it can discard the idea that the good life should be a focus at all and simply provide information on different topics. Wow Tristan, this is all very fascinating and worthy of further thought and discussion, but come on man just tell us what you think! Settle down there reader, I’ll give you what you came here for.

I think the good life is having deep, profound relationships with the people in your life, having tools to critically think about issues, and actually getting out there and doing something about those issues. I think education should absolutely play a role in guiding you toward the good life. And I think it should do that by having the teacher design curriculum which gives you tools and motivation to live the good life. Now, this is not exactly how our current system is set up at FLC, however I would claim and be prepared to defend that this is how the Environmental Center is set up. We have a curriculum which identifies issues, gives us the tools to deal with those issues, and healthy ways to develop relationships with our fellow activists along the way. Just one example of this is campus food security, which is an issue I am tackling this semester. The issue is this; there is not a large sustainable local food source on campus, only a small garden (which is sweet anyways) and imported food. The EC is giving me the tools to deal with this problem by educating me about permaculture food forests (which are awesome), and providing a space to actually design and build one on campus! Now if this isn’t living the good life I don’t know what is!