Purposeful Youth

Glazer, Nathan. "Purposeful Youth." Education Next, 2009.

Excerpt: William Damon, a distinguished psychologist and the director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, has long been interested, along with Howard Gardner and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in the study of those who succeed, who do “good work” (the title of one of his books, coauthored with Gardner and Csikszentmihalyi),who care (Some Do Care, the title of another), and who manage to live fulfilled lives. The “purposeful” among us seem not to include much of today’s youth.

His latest book explores Damon’s concern that many American young people do not have meaningful or significant purpose to guide them, and do not get much help from their teachers. As he defines it, “Purpose is a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at the same time meaningful to the self and consequential for the world beyond the self.” Getting good grades and into college does not in itself fulfill the demands of purposefulness; even the desire to achieve these ambitions so as to make a good living and raise a family, while better, does not fully qualify.

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