In his article, "The Organization Kid," David Brooks provides readers with his opinions on "organization kids." Brooks defines "organization kids," as "the young men and women of America's future elite [who] work their laptops to the bone, rarely question authority, and happily accept their positions at the top of the heap as part of the natural life of order."
I am an "organization kid" (OK). I am involved in too many clubs, invest myself in too many volunteer hours, take too many classes, and spend too many nights stumbling into my apartment at 2:00 a.m. with my roommates. As an "OK" I agree with his statement saying that these students "work their laptops to the bone," but when he wrote that they "rarely question authority" and "happily accept their positions," I was offended. I know that I, along with my peers, have constantly questioned authority and are definitely not complacent with all of our positions in society. He continues:
We have in America a generation of students who are extraordinarily bright, morally earnest, and incredibly industrious. They like to study and socialize in groups. They create and join organizations with great enthusiasm. They are responsible, safety-conscious, and mature. They feel no compelling need to rebel - not even a hint of one. They not only defer to authority; they admire it... They regard the universe as beneficent, orderly, and meaningful. At the schools and colleges where the next leadership class is being bred, one finds not angry revolutionaries, despondent slackers, or dark cynics.
In 2001, when this article was written, Brooks may have been right. It has been 12 years since he wrote this article and our world has changed. In 2001, Brooks wrote about privileged students who grew up in what was thought of as a fair and just world. Five months after this article, of 9/11 occurred; the belief of living in a fair and just world immediately became a fantasy, especially to the Millennial Generation. 9/11 happened when we were just beginning to understand the world around us - now, we're all "dark cynics."
Today, the world is not fair; the world is not just. The new "OK" has grown and matured. We still work our laptops to the bone, but we don't know how to live or engage ourselves in everyday life without questioning authority and becoming involved with intellectual matters. Instead of taking the back seat in society, the "OKs" of my generation have started protests, written articles and initiated campaigns to fight against our superiors. And as for intellectual matters, my friends I just spent two hours discussing politics with the youngest mayor in America.
My term for Brooks's "OKs" is "engaged learners." These are the students that engage themselves in extracurriculars where they actively learn more skills, obtain ideas and develop relationships. "Engaged learners" supplement academics with extracurriculars to boost a resume, create relationships, and improve oneself.
The term "self-improvement" has become part of America's daily vocabulary. Americans think there is a quick cure to everything and that there is always something or someone that can help solve our problems and help improve ourselves. This cure can be a pill, a therapist, and for some, a student organization. Why have we become so obsessed with improving ourselves? Do we improve ourselves to discover our meaning? Do we improve ourselves to discover something, anything?
I read an article on Thought Catalog entitled "A Goodbye to Astronauts" that gave me a little bit of perspective on the topic of self-discovery as well as "engaged learners." The article had nothing to do with student organizations or student involvement, but it had a line that struck me. Niki Price, an optimistic 20-something, wrote:
After all, isn't that what we are all searching for? Something more? We live our lives in a routine; we live to work and work to live. Many of us have a great life, all things considered. We have friends, relationships, stories of times that were and, if we're lucky, people to share them with. But is that all there is to life? Going through each day as a drone completing tasks that, while productive, provide no extra meaning or satisfaction? I don't think so. We're all looking to be apart of something bigger, we just need to discover what that is.
This quote quickly relates to my college experience and my life. I critically thought - does this quote describe an "engaged learner?" Do "engaged learners" live as if they are drones? Do they get stuck in routines that they cannot get out of? Do students use organizations and extracurriculars to be a part of "something bigger?" What is "something bigger?"
I wanted to be a "part of something big." I wanted to be a part of a group of individuals working to evoke change in themselves and others and working towards the betterment of society. "Engaged learners" find great satisfaction when they find an organization that makes them "part of something big." The "engaged learners" of our generation understand that the world is not fair or just. Most of the organizations they become involved with are focused on humanitarian aid and community building. "Engaged learners" relay to find a cure for cancer, walk to raise money for education, build homes for those with low-income, plan events to raise awareness, organize protests to improve worker wages; the list of activities is endless.
I may not have discovered the meaning to life through participating in organizations and I may not have a name that will always be remembered at my college. But, what matters, is that I felt as if I did discover something much bigger than myself.