Calling for Students: What Is a Life Worth Living?
Do you ever wonder what it means for life to go well? What you need to do in order to lead a life worth living? A pilot program, “Discerning the Good Life,” led by Kevin Jiang, instructor in mathematics, statistics, and computer science, is inviting students to participate as learners and leaders in probing one of life’s most important questions, what is a life worth living?
The series, supported by the Tang Institute, aims to build upon popular, college-level initiatives at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale universities that invite students to consider similar questions. It will take place this spring and run for six weeks. Working together and with Mr. Jiang and other community members, students will begin the series by interrogating the vision of a good life endorsed by Phillips Academy and their peers. Then, students will examine what the “good life” means through a variety of lenses, ranging from “effective altruism” to “scientific naturalism.” Students will end the series by proposing a first draft of their own vision of a life worth living.
At the same time, students will work with Mr. Jiang to help shape the arc and format of their discussions and determine ways to involve additional students. Participating students will be encouraged to share and test their ideas on how to investigate these topics on campus and in education more generally.
Also in process are opportunities to engage faculty and staff members in these discussions, with the goals of building a community of students and adults who can ponder these issues together. Stay tuned for more information.
“As a Phillips Academy alumnus and now a teacher, I think there are exciting opportunities and a lot of interest in expanding this type of learning in our community and in secondary schools generally,” said Jiang. “By exploring this question of the ‘good life’ in a focused, thoughtful way, I think we will discover new possibilities for putting it at the center of what we think and do.”
Learning and Living “The Good Life”
The series will be rooted in a belief that communities can be built to reason about the good life and about the alignment of practices for the good life. Together the group will explore how individual reflection coupled with group conversation can and do lead to positive action. Students will be encouraged to:
- Examine different models of the good life.
- Practice individual habits of reflection and action in discerning and pursuing the good life.
- Practice collective habits of discussion within a respectful, honest, and diverse community of learners.
- Examine psychological pitfalls in pursuing the good life.
Interested in researching more about this topic right now? Mr. Jiang recommends the following resources for an initial dive into the concept:
“What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness
“The Surprising Science of Happiness”
“Famine, Affluence, and Morality”
“Pale Blue Dot”
Experiencing Connected Learning
Dedicated to fostering opportunities for connected learning, the Tang Institute works with faculty and collaborators to help prepare students for our complex and interconnected world. Connected learning posits that learning happens on a continuum–in school, as well as at home, work, and among friends—and is driven by students’ own interests and life experiences.
Continue to check our events calendar for more information on the “good life” pilot program and other connected learning initiatives.