My American Identity

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Can I be myself or do I need to be taught?

 

Chapter 11

Education and Identity

 

I want my own culture

Freedom is a condition in society that I require to be myself. Honesty allows public discourse to align truly with my thoughts. We all seek the truth but our understanding of it depend on which concepts have been able to become conscious. As much as possible I want to face each question of truth without preconception, allowing me to form my own opinions. I want to determine my own identity. I do not want to have to defend any social or intellectual posture imposed upon me.

I come back to the fact that I am an American, white, male, married, living in Minnesota in the early 21st century. Beyond that, I belong to a certain culture. I belong to a certain period of public events. It is the news and entertainment media that furnish that part of my experience. I do believe, of course, that those images are biased toward particular political points of view and are not necessarily in my best interest.

With respect to culture, the two most important institutions are those of education and religion. Each has a core function - education being to impart needed skills for functioning in society, and religion to handle the disturbing experience of death and the related morality - but they also have an important role to play in shaping personal identity.

What is it that I would hope to find in a culture? To begin, it should be a culture rooted in my own society rather than in someone else’s. With respect to religion, I will concede that the Bible is filled with rich and compelling stories that offer profound insights into life’s mysteries. However, those Biblical stories are set in a land distant from mine and in a time many centuries ago. They are stories of another people’s experience rather than my own. Is it too much to ask for something closer to home?

Likewise, I admit that William Shakespeare was an astute student of human nature and an unrivaled master of the English language. English blood runs in my veins. But, again, his view of life was developed four hundred years ago in a society that no longer exists. His stories pertain to Roman and English rulers of a previous era. It would be good for school children to be able to relate personally to what they read in the literature classes. Good instruction should take the audience into account.

Religion assumes a community of ethnicity or common belief. One can assume a person has a certain moral upbringing or is obedient to God’s laws. It brings us into the fold of the righteous. Education assumes a common experience in courses taken. A school’s reputation rubs off on those who were admitted as students and on those who have graduated. The diploma is a badge of identity pointing to careers. In affiliating with either of those two institutions, one can be assumed to have a certain way of thinking and behaving that identifies us personally.

Yet, if I look to education and to religion for a culture and an identity of my own, I look in vain. These are provinces of someone else’s culture. I am asked to surrender my previous identity when I enter their systems. In this chapter, we will discuss personal identity in relation to our educational systems; in the following one, to our religions.

common knowledge and skills

Human culture would scarcely exist if people were not able to speak. Civilized society might not function if people were not able to read and write and do arithmetic. While children learn speech by living in a family, the “3Rs” - reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic - are typically learned in school. A modern society such as ours needs a literate population to operate and manage its economy. It needs schools to teach literacy skills. Education is a good thing when it teaches those skills and when it gives young people a broader world of experience. It need not threaten personal identity. Done a certain way, it can lead people astray.

Originally, the case was made that a broad-based education would help citizens to become better informed and cast intelligent votes. An educated populace was essential to a functioning democracy. Furthermore, school attendance would give children something to do in the winter season when their services were not needed on the farm. Horace Mann and others promoted a system of free public schools. Students were exposed to textbooks such as the McGuffey Reader that included excerpts from famous speeches and literature. The public-school system created a common culture for Americans.

teaching the New England culture

Education became, however, a class-changing institution. The appeal of a college education is based on the promise of acquiring the polish associated with a higher social class. It’s based on the idea that someone else’s culture is better than what my own people have. I go to college to “better myself”. I find examples of better writing, more sophisticated thinking, and altogether more cultural refinement in those circles than what I previously knew. If I am lucky, I graduate a changed man, with a different identity.

In the early years of the Republic, New England was the center of American education. Rubes from the hinterland would absorb the culture that radiated from that place. The McGuffey Readers offered a standard curriculum for early generations of American youth. Besides the Bible and verses sung in hymns, this book provided phrases and ideas that became familiar to people at that time. The final editions of the Fifth and Sixth Readers contained selections from seventy New England writers, compared with fifty-eight selections from writers in other parts of the country.

When Horace Mann, the man most responsible for our public-school system, surveyed “the rich savannahs of the South and the almost interminable prairies of the West”, he was moved to ask: “Why were they (these regions) not colonized by men like the Pilgrim fathers?” Why, in other words, were their people not like New Englanders? Culturally, that would change. New England culture would spread through education to other parts of the country.

The Indiana novelist Booth Tarkington observed that in elementary-school classrooms circa 1900, four photo portraits typically were hung over the blackboard behind the teachers desk. They were of four New England poets: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier. Presented in “shades of bilious brown”, these were “great and good men, kind men, men who loved children. Their faces were noble and benevolent.”

later models

In later years, it became fashionable to disparage poets like these with their sentimental verse. A new crop of literary giants including Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Edgar Alan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau, with greater realism and a more compelling social message, appeared. Poetry became edgy and experimental. It included controversial elements like sex. The more daring writers ran afoul of censors wanting to ban their books. But that only increased the appeal of such artists among rebellious youth.

Literature, like the visual arts, then veered into incomprehensible expressions. Bits and pieces of imagery taken randomly from an artist’s experience were juxtaposed in often obscure ways. Avant-garde culture taxed the limits of the intellect. Most people tuned it out. Coherence was lost. But this remained a staple of what was taught for years in the better colleges.

In the late 20th century, the academic culture again changed. The celebrated artists and writers of yesteryear became “dead white men.” Out with them; and in with people who look like us! We in the swelling tide of humanity require more writings by Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou. We want more emphasis on female writers, or on Hispanics, Asians, native Americans, or gays and lesbians. Essentially, political groups took over the school curricula. From my point of view, it might have been better if we had stuck with the poets who were kind to children.
does education equate with learning?

does education equate with learning?

There are other agendas promoting education. Political leaders sometimes exploit national rivalries when suggesting that more resources be put into the schools. In the 1850s, Prince Albert of England urged his adopted country to undertake more rigorous training in the natural sciences to meet competition from German industry. A century later, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, budgets were increased for math and science courses so America could catch up in the space race. Today, as American workers face competition from India and China, education is being hailed as a way to maintain or restore our industrial edge.

We are all familiar with public pronouncements that equate education with “learning”. The more heavily education is funded, the more learning presumably will take place. However, learning per se has never been the main purpose of our educational system. Anyone who wants to learn something can go to the public library and take out books free of charge. If a young man or woman is willing to spend $40,000 a year to attend a private college, there must be another reason for that expenditure of time and money. The reason is that a college education establishes an identity for the person who graduates. An instant reputation is created.

If education were just about learning, we might get by with a network of free book-discussion groups that anyone could attend. If you put your heart into it, you would probably learn just as much from these discussions as you would from taking a college course. But there are differences. First, colleges will not allow just anyone to take their courses. Students must have been admitted to the college and they must have paid the tuition. Presumably, that money buys access to an intelligent, experienced educator who can create a better learning experience. Second, college tests students on what they can remember from their courses. The accumulated grades from these courses determines whether a student passes and gets a degree.

The extra set of requirements, going beyond the actual learning, is related to personal identity. The fact that a student has been admitted to a particular college tells people something about him because the colleges have different reputations. The better students presumably go to the better colleges; the others go to a worse one. Students thus become identified with the type of college they attend. They participate in its reputation.

Then, of course, the grading system locates students on a continuum of performance. It’s better to graduate than to fail, and it’s best to graduate near or at the top of one’s class. The choice of major says also something about the student. If he or she goes on to get a master’s degree or a doctorate, that, too, says something. A particular degree from a particular university in a particular field suggests that the graduate possesses a certain fund of knowledge.

the original purpose of American education

This assessment of a college education may overstate the learning aspect, though. From the beginning, Americans have sent their children to schools that enhanced their social standing. Rich colonists sometimes sent their sons to school in Europe to learn a profession or acquire personal polish. Thomas Jefferson complained that such experiences gave the young American “a contempt for the simplicity of his own country .. (and) ... a spirit for female intrigue destructive of his own and others’ happiness.”

Colleges were established in the 19th century to serve social-climbing purposes. J.C. Furnas, a social historian, observed: “Since human beings are social animals sensitive to herd values, their educational institutions tend to replace the academic with the social and often the frivolous. The Yankee Quality of the 1800’s no longer sent their sons to Harvard and Yale to make ministers of them ... It was just that a degree from either place went with being named Saltonstall or Trumbull. Not to have it was eccentric, to have deprived oneself of spontaneous close acquaintance with one’s peers.”

“As colleges and state universities fanned out toward the Mississippi,” he continued, “the prestige a boy acquired from having been to college came to outweigh considerations of what he might have learned there. To have been able to send him there was the outward and visible sign of economic arrival. His instructors did what they could to keep up the pretext of training him in mathematics, classical languages and smatterings of science while hoping that at least a few among these annual influxes of incurious youths would take to research or learning or anyway cultivation. But the most marked effect was the number of their male progeny named after classical poets - Horace, Vergil, Homer, Ovid.”

The Morrill Act of 1862 gave states plots of federal land if they would establish colleges to teach the practical arts in areas such as agriculture and mechanical engineering. Those institutions would balance the “intellectualized luxuries” of teaching Latin and moral philosophy. However, wrote Furnas, “the very word ‘college’ in the Morrill Act was a social trap. A boy sent to Pennsylvania State up in the hills ... could be spoken of by his parents as going to college just as if it were the much more expensive University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. As motives for attending shifted toward prestige, the liberal arts segment of the curriculum expanded to match. Ohio State Agricultural and Mechanical College at Columbus, chartered in 1870, was significantly renamed Ohio State University in 1878.”

Phi Beta Kappa, a student literary society, was established at William and Mary college in 1776. Several Greek-lettered groups, “heavily social, though ostensibly literary”, were formed at Union College in Schenectady, New York, in the 1820s. “Formalized snobbery and campus politics soon ousted literary values, and an epidemic of fraternity founding came with the nationwide spread of colleges after the mid-century.” Typically, the fraternity members would move from college dormitories to their own facilities where the men would live and eat together and carry on social functions. Sororities were likewise established for women.

An education in Roman and Greek literature exposed students to a culture different than their own. Presumably, their identities might be upgraded by this elevated experience. Really it was about social upgrading. A school curriculum steeped in the classics attracted a higher clientele. Even after college students stopped reading classical texts in the original language, the Greek lettering remained an important element in the fraternity system. Sent to college for generational advancement, students instead wanted to have fun.

college sports and team spirit

The Romans spoke of “mens sana in corpore sano” - a sound mind in a sound body. The body as well as the mind needed conditioning. The colleges started athletics programs to satisfy that need. Imitating English universities, their students took up sports.

In 1843, Yale established a boat club. Harvard followed suit a year later. The first intercollegiate sports contest was a race on Lake Winnipesaukee between those two college crews in 1852. Baseball became a popular sport at the time of the U.S. Civil War. Teams from Amherst and Williams played a game in 1859. An intercollegiate baseball league was established two decades later.

The game of football is one of academia’s major contributions to American culture. It evolved from the English sport of rugby which was, in turn, derived from soccer. Soccer did not allow use of the hands. In 1874, a soccer team from Harvard had a match with a rugby team from McGill University of Montreal. After playing soccer the first half and rugby the second, the Harvard team decided it liked rugby better.

Yale’s coach, Walter Camp, developed the concept of eleven-man football teams and the scrimmage line. The forward pass was authorized at a conference called by President Theodore Roosevelt to make the sport safer. Notre Dame’s coach, Knute Rockne, popularized this technique in an upset victory over Army in 1913.

Today, when we speak of “school spirit”, we are likely referring to the spirit of athletes on winning teams or of students cheering them on in the stands. For, a college team is both a community in itself and a representative of the broader college community. When it wins, this team extends its winning identity to students and alumni of the college.

Why is not school spirit connected with academic achievement? One reason may be that those achievements are rated competitively. If the purpose of higher education is to judge students by their differing academic performances, then one student’s gain is another’s loss. We would not be cheering our competitor’s effort to do better than we and rank higher in the class. Our own positive identity depends on a lower position for someone else. We are not all in the same boat.

a force for social stratification

Education is therefore a force to divide communities. The main split is between the more educated and less educated persons. We have a system that sends every child to elementary school. Most go on to middle school and high school. The high-school drop-out falls to the bottom of society. Students who graduate from high school but do not go on to college comprise the stratum above them. College graduates rise in society; but, of course, some colleges are “better” than others. Persons with advanced degrees are assumed to be better (in terms of job qualification) than the bachelor of arts or science. A hierarchy forms based on educational attainment.

How does this affect us psychologically? Subconsciously, it hurts society when we cannot all look another in the face and treat each other as equals. If my identity is based on the idea that “I’m better than you”, it creates a strained relationship with others. I cannot simply come out and say that I’m superior to you because that would be bad form. However, if my identity is based on being superior, then I must show it in unspoken ways.

Conversely, it puts a strain on people to have to prove themselves superior because some may have self-doubts. On what basis are they superior? Is it because their parents had the money to send them to a good college? Until they prove themselves in other ways, their status remains in question - most importantly, to themselves.

A segment of the population does not have self-doubts. For such persons, it’s simply a matter of having graduated from a college and reaping the rewards. The high-ranking careerist can tell himself that he’s at the top of the occupational heap because of “merit”. He has paid his dues because he spent four years in college, and then landed a job with promotion potential and, through good job performance, worked his way up the career ladder. He now earns a large salary and can afford a large house in the suburbs. Isolated from the riff-riff, he need not worry about his social inferiors (whom he seldom sees) but mainly about remaining in good standing with his peers.

privileged if not rich

One should not underestimate the appeal of belonging to a privileged class. The perception of privilege, even without wealth, can satisfy. I once met a man who said he had worked in a middle-management position for a billionaire. In middle age, he was now training to become a barber. He had calculated that he could make more money in his first year of cutting hair than in working for the billionaire even after numerous promotions. Yet, he bore no ill will towards this man. He had been a trusted employee who was privileged to know certain company secrets.

So American middle managers, who have sustained eroding real wages and increased working hours over the past several decades, remain surprisingly unconcerned in the face of those setbacks. They are, after all, members of the managerial class. It seems that Americans want to think of themselves as being privileged. They want to keep up appearances. They’ll settle for the image of an attractive self-identity and may even become angry at someone who suggests that they should be dissatisfied with what they have.

People in careers need to prove themselves through work. Education, in blessing prospective career winners, creates premature expectations. A young person is not done any favors in being thrust to the fore before he has proven himself. Pressure is on him from the beginning to make a good showing. On this pedestal he finds it more difficult to make the inevitable learning mistakes.

do successful people go to college?

The educational system is based on the premise that its institution imparts knowledge needed in careers. People must have a certain education to function in positions that involve advanced technical skills. Completion of college shows the perseverance that people will need to succeed in any kind of modern career.

If that is true, how did Bill Gates become the world’s richest man having dropped out of college after his freshman year? Is he the exceptional case? Well, some of the most illustrious persons in our history have had limited educations. Among them:

George Washington (attended school irregularly to age 15), Benjamin Franklin (left school at age 10), Alexander Hamilton (one year of college), Andrew Jackson (little or no formal education), Henry Clay (three years of schooling), Abraham Lincoln (less than a year’s schooling), Horace Greeley (left school at age 15), Edgar Alan Poe (flunked out of college), Mark Twain (sporadic schooling until age 13), Brigham Young (little or no formal education), John D. Rockefeller (left school at age 16), Andrew Carnegie (no education whatsoever), Henry Ford (left school at age 15), Thomas Edison (three months’ schooling), and the Wright brothers (high-school education).

Was that long ago? Some high achievers in more recent years include: Charles Lindbergh (college drop-out), Ernest Hemingway (high-school education), Harry S. Truman (high-school graduate), Frank Lloyd Wright (college drop-out), Robert Frost (college drop-out), Bob Dylan (college drop-out) Bobby Fischer (high-school drop-out), Buckminster Fuller (college drop-out), Barry Goldwater (college drop-out), Edwin Land (college drop-out), H.L. Hunt (grade-school drop-out), Paul Hoffman (college drop-out), and Eric Hoffer (little or no formal education).

Time magazine ran a cover story in December 1965 featuring self-made millionaires in America under the age of forty. One of the startling characteristics it discovered in these high achievers was their relative lack of college credentials. One of the millionaires, a real-estate tycoon from Los Angeles, explained: “College prepares you to work for someone else - and you can only make a million by working for yourself.

pressures to expand education

On the other hand, the claim that well-educated people are needed to perform well in jobs can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As more people receive college degrees, their political clout grows. They then become able to convince corporate recruitment officers and state legislatures or licensing boards that educational preparation is needed to “maintain quality” in doing a certain type of work. These new restrictions choke off opportunities for uneducated persons, regardless of ability. Also, of course, the restriction of “qualified” workers limits the supply of people working in the field; and that drives up wages. Incumbent job holders love to raise educational standards for that very reason.

Employers feel compelled to require college degrees by the fear of rejecting certain applicants. Starting in the 1960s, they became vulnerable to lawsuits filed by rejected job applicants alleging racial discrimination. Standard tests that they used to measure “ability” were said to be biased against minorities. A 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case filed against the Duke Power Company held that, even though federal law allowed skills tests in hiring, those tests had to be fair not only in form but in effect. Employers had to be able to prove that any test that produced a “disparate impact” negatively affecting minorities was justified by the requirement of particular job positions. The burden of proof was on them.

“Small wonder,” wrote George Will, “that many employers, fearing endless litigation about multiple uncertainties, threw up their hands and, to avoid legal liability, threw out intelligence and aptitude tests for potential employees. Instead, they began requiring college degrees as indices of applicants’ satisfactory intelligence and diligence ... (C)ollege attendance increased from 5.8 million in 1970 to 17.5 million in 2005.” The unintended consequence was that minorities who might have “performed well on an intelligence or aptitude test and would have been offered a job directly 30 or 40 years ago are now compelled to attend a college or university for four years and incur significant costs.”

According to Lapham’s Quarterly, an English doctor in 1850 was required only to have observed medical procedures in a university lecture hall; and also to know how to read and write Latin and Greek. A neurosurgeon practicing in the United States in 2009 needs to have attended four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and five or more years of residency - a total of fourteen years after high school.

So we have made years of schooling or preparatory practice in an accredited institution of learning a requirement to do certain advanced kinds of work. Those requirements are enforced by the state through officially recognized licensing boards, dominated by members of the same profession. Besides producing ever more “qualified” practitioners, the system creates employment opportunities for the educators who serve those professions. We keep unemployment in check this way; but professional services become much more expensive.

an educated underclass

As college enrollment has increased and employers face increased pressure to hire members of protected groups, some college graduates will inevitably fall into a group that has paid its academic dues but did not find suitable employment. Such persons become a new underclass, the “educated proletariat” who might also be called “people of the broken promises”. Their education has given them a sense of belonging to a privileged class but they lack the related income. They are an intelligentsia disconnected from career success but into volunteering, politics, music and the arts, or pursuing personal interests.

Educated proletarians tend to be politically liberal. Far from resenting preferences given to racial minorities, they feel a kinship to such persons on the basis of having been similarly victimized. Racial discrimination is an officially recognized victimhood that anchors the claim of other groups. Alienated from their own society, the educated proletarians can assume a pose similar to that of disadvantaged blacks in opposing the “white” power structure. At the same time, they need not admit their own disadvantage. They can, as privileged persons, help blacks altruistically. Since education has given them the fig leaf of a prestigious identity, it would ill serve their purpose to complain about broken career promises. A good-paying career may not be available in their line of interest but in the less prestigious, blue-collar areas

Too much education makes a person unfit to handle certain kinds of work. College prepares a person to handle white-collar positions which in the past have been associated with higher pay and responsibility. They are what upwardly mobile people in our society aspire to achieve in the socioeconomic competition. A college education makes a person unfit to do “menial” work both because many graduates find the work to be beneath their dignity and because it does not meet their income expectations. Also, the educational process trains people in literacy skills, not to work with their hands. Its graduates have been in school all these years and haven’t been exposed to situations that require practical knowledge.

where immigrants fit in

In a society where, for reasons of prestige, everyone wants to become a lawyer or a doctor, there may be a mismatch between the supply of people trained to do work and the work actually required. Someone must handle the functions requiring physical labor, especially those that do not pay so well. That’s where immigrants fit in. The natives have gone off to college to acquire advanced skills, and no one is left to do the grunt work. Immigrants from poor countries such as Mexico are happy to fill the vacuum at a reasonable cost.

As the U.S. economy attracts migrant labor from Latin American countries, so the industrialized countries of western Europe depend on cheap labor from north Africa, Turkey, and other parts of the Islamic world. There, too, the educational system creates a class of people unwilling to do the kinds of work that would symbolize failure in the socioeconomic competition. To impoverished immigrants, the same work spells economic opportunity. They are happy to take jobs lacking prestige that pay more than what they could earn in the home country.

The educated natives of industrialized countries have put themselves on a treadmill that requires years of doing unpaid classroom work followed by several more years in low-paid starting positions related to their career. They must postpone marriage and child bearing while working to support themselves and then make payments on the student loans. The immigrants meanwhile do what previous generations of Americans once did: They have large families and take whatever work comes their way. A generous social-safety net pays for public-school education and medical bills. As a result, the population of immigrants grows more rapidly than that of the educated natives. One population is replaced with another.

The nominally disadvantaged groups in society are thus poised to gain the upper hand. Understandably, the natives are upset when others come in to take their jobs and then outbreed them. They take out their resentment on the immigrants. Really, they ought to be blaming those in their own community who sold them on this program. The smooth-talking authority figures who advised them to “get a good education first”, the voices of “responsibility” who urged women to postpone pregnancy until they were settled in marriage and a career, and employers who demanded huge time sacrifices from their entry-level employees were the ones who lured them into that situation. The immigrants were fortunate to have avoided “opportunities” of that sort.

Education is a set of classroom instructions, homework assignments, and tests designed to measure learning. Reality is not like that. Not everything worth knowing in life can be reduced to writing. In many respects, the uneducated people or those who grew up on a farm are better prepared to deal with life’s real challenges than the educated city people. Years of schooling make us conform to modes of structured thinking that destroy the openness or adaptability to life that we once might have had. We learn to read, write, and think logically. But that means giving up something else.

real and fake challenges

During the period of the Vietnam war, a song frequently heard on the airwaves was a recording by Sergeant Barry Sadler titled “Ballad of the Green Berets”. The Green Berets were a special-operations force of the U.S. army that, among other things, engaged in daring raids and rescue missions behind enemy lines. Those actions were often heroic. A stanza from the Ballad that caught my attention, however, was the following:

“Silver wings upon their chest,
These are men, America’s best;

One hundred men will test today,
but only three win the Green Beret.”

I can understand the “silver wings” insignia symbolizing the glamor of flying aircraft or parachuting into a combat area. But the line about three out of a hundred persons who were tested passing the test and becoming a Green Beret? This was an odd kind of heroism. It did not seem glamorous or heroic, but was instead the result of facing an artificial challenge. I was sure that the Green Berets could find something in their history of combat that would kindle the imagination more than this.

So it seems that life in the raw is more interesting than the kind of life which we assume in school and which many people experience for the rest of their lives. That’s the problem with American identity. People want and need to be proud of themselves. That comes about by meeting a difficult challenge. But the program of education followed by careers is too tame. It’s designed to remove difficulty from career progression and create a safe and reliable path to success. A person then has no chance to test the limits of his ability. He has no way to become a hero.

The same is true of nations. They become proud of themselves as a people by defeating a stronger enemy. The classic case is the defeat of the Persian emperor Xerxes II by a coalition of Greek city-states led by Athens in the 6th century B.C. The classical Greek culture arose later in the same century. The United States experienced such a victory in the late 18th century when the colonial army led by George Washington defeated Great Britain, the world’s leading military power. Great Britain under Winston Churchill’s stubborn leadership similarly repelled air attacks from Nazi Germany in the 1940s. The Soviet Union beat back Hitler’s invasion. The Chinese ousted the Japanese imperialists. None of these feats were easy or assured. By the same token, they were heroic.

The problem arises when people, for understandable reasons, refuse to put themselves at risk. It arises when powerful empires, not needing to become involved in another people’s business, impose their will on these people through brute force. There can then be no spiritual reward. If we insist on making everything safe and predictable, then we remove people’s chances to test themselves. We remove the opportunity for people to acquire a proud identity by meeting a difficult challenge.

That is, I feel, what the educational system does: It substitutes a program of artificial experiences (which can sometimes be quite difficult) for authentic experiences in life. It seeks to give its graduates an unmerited economic reward. The educated persons may then become unsure of themselves. If, on the other hand, people have the freedom to be themselves, make mistakes, and learn how to overcome those mistakes, they have a real basis for self-confidence and pride in themselves.

If therefore we want a sound personal identity, we will have to make a difficult choice. It is one requiring courage. Either be willing to put oneself on the line and have the opportunity to gain real pride in oneself; or else, go for programs of guaranteed success and lose the chance of discovering one’s true nature.

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