The "Well-Rounded" Man This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all."



Nick Carraway's comment in The Great Gatsby seems to say that specializing in a certain field is smarter than being well-rounded. He complains that he is again becoming the weakest of all specialists, the "well-rounded" man. His opinions wildly oppose mine, and also oppose the values I have been taught.

Recently, I have been worrying about colleges. I don't know why I am worried now. I am only a sophomore, but the thought of college seems to creep up on me like sly tiger hunting its prey. I know this seems like a dark view of college, but an institution of this magnitude scares me. I constantly lie awake at night thinking of what my major will be, and what I will specialize in: will it be medicine or history? However, when I discuss the idea with my father he says to take a liberal arts education, and become "well-rounded."

"Well-rounded" is a word scorned upon in today's society. Who wants to be well-rounded when one can be a special doctor making half a million dollars each year? Even today in English class, a student mentioned that specializing in a certain field is more advantageous than being, ugh, "well-rounded." The frown forming on her face and the nodding heads bobbing up and down next to her convinced me that no one wants to be "well-rounded" anymore. Who would actually want to know a substantial amount concerning many topics? Who would actually want to be able to answer his children's biology questions? No one does anymore. People are now content with understanding one field to the fullest, and letting the rest of their knowledge deteriorate.

My father tells me to enjoy college, and life, to its fullest. I do not see how I can follow his advice without being well-rounded. If knowledge is power, then a well-rounded person is strong - the last true individual.

"Well-rounded" has the connotation of being smooth and having as pleasant a feel as the round ball I used to play with. I loved that ball, loved how it felt in my hands. If only I could meet the human representation of my round childhood ball. Unfortunately, most people I meet today remind me of my jagged squares. They're smooth along the edges, until a sharp corner cuts my hand. For a while, these people come across as omnipotent, but then you get seared with the epiphany that they are nothing but ignorant specialists.

Life is not best looked at from a single window. One must stand back from it to see fully its beauty.

I imagine lying in an open field at night gazing at the speckled sky and understanding life. I know this will never happen, for no one can fully understand life. But I know that never am I staring through a single window when important revelations hit me. I am always out in a wide open field with the whole world in my unobstructed view. ?


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Alonzo110 said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm
This is well-written and deserves a well-announced AMEN! I too am seeking a liberal arts education, and I also feel strongly about those who specialize in one field. The world is SO very vast; there are so many things to discover in it. Why anyone would want to put aside learning about anything other than a certain thing is beyond me. Personally, I feel it's a disadvantage. I mean, we all grow up in high schools where we're basically trained to be well-rounded. And then after high school ... (more »)
 
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