With our hectic Princeton schedules, we all too often live up to Brooks’ “organization kid” stereotype: We eat, work, participate in a slew of extracurriculars, work some more, eat some more and sometimes sleep if we’re lucky. And we might edit our resumes along the way. Yet this workaholic culture is, for many, noticeably devoid of a crucial component to a holistic education and personal development that a university is meant to foster: a reflective moral element. Currently, students grow vastly in their intellectual capacities here at Princeton but often struggle to afford any, let alone sufficient, time for personal reflection and focus on development of character. This, in large part, leads to the lack in moral articulateness that Brooks observes, whereby students are not only uncomfortable with discussion of bigger moral issues but wholly incapable of coherently conveying their stance in moral terms.
This problem is preventable. It is not, however, a problem that would be solved by some deft policy maneuver on the part of the University. Instead, this problem is one that must be faced by students themselves much the same way as students in 1893, frustrated with the problem of dishonesty on campus, took the initiative to institute the Honor Code. In the face of our current problem, we must take the initiative to see to our own moral development. Fortunately there are a number of groups and forums of discussion that can help guide us. Sustained Dialogue, the Religious Life Council, the Society of Humanists, the James Madison Program, the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Human Values Forum are only a few such organizations that can prompt us to think about issues of great moral importance via discussion groups, guidance and lectures on topics that often transcend our rigorous academic studies.
Some may argue, however, that our ethical thought and moral values distribution requirement is a sufficient venue for cultivating moral articulateness; while the EM requirement may indeed help, it is not enough. For one thing, only one one-semester course must be taken to fulfill it. Additionally, given the wide spectrum of moral considerations, many such courses cannot comprehensively aid in shaping our moral character. Nevertheless, choosing challenging EM courses — perhaps with professors with whom you may disagree such as Peter Singer or Robert George — is indeed another valuable way to address the problem. However, we cannot forget that much of the onus falls on us as individuals to step outside of our “organization kid” self, make time for weighty thought, figure out what we truly believe and, occasionally, take a stand on important issues facing our society.