How evolved are we?

The editor of the university’s campus newspaper was serious when with a straight face and confident air she informed me that the students at her university were more evolved than those who attend my university. More evolved. Those were her words.

She and other students on her staff had invited me to conduct a workshop on ways they might improve their newspaper. As a faculty member at my university’s school of journalism, I had been teaching courses in news writing, news editing and feature writing and had been also serving as writing and editing coach to several professional newspapers. My background before teaching included several years on daily newspapers in Florida, The Miami Herald among them, as reporter, feature writer, performing arts columnist and critic. Her university lacked a journalism curriculum, and she thought that bringing in someone experienced in the field might be helpful.

My time with her staff went fine. The students and I got along great. I was able to show them several helpful techniques, and we parted friends. This encounter occurred nearly 40 years ago, but I still remember her remark and her confident manner when she delivered it. Why?

My 22 years of teaching exposed me to countless Intelligent, imaginative and motivated young people of good character. They have changed me for the better. Every one of them. Many have gone on to wonderful careers and hold significant positions of leadership. Not evolved? What balderdash.

We have seen that some people find it important to feel superior to others in some way. Maybe we all have a little of that. We find it comforting to be able to look down on those who may be less well educated than we are, or have a different skin color, or language, or faith tradition, or place of origin. We are raised to trust this feeling of personal superiority, and it remains deeply ingrained in our psyche. Hard to let it go.

Here’s the rub: We reveal the content of our character in the ways we choose to act on it.


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