From Great to Good

I was reading today in the Daily Stoic about what mattered to Marcus Aurelius…what things for him were marks of success:  good character and acting for the common Good.

My musings on Marcus got me to thinking about how I might rebrand a bit in NOVA Lab  

For the past two years, I’ve issued a daily call to my NOVA Lab students to “go do great things.”  But in thinking over what Marcus Aurelius said, I am wondering if “do great things” is too much license.  Great things might be accomplished in many ways, and those ends might justify means I wouldn’t want to justify.  

So I thought about “Do Good Things.” 

I love the ambiguity there.  At first, it seems, like the statement of an underachiever, like “good enough.”  What entrepreneur would consider only ever being “good.” “I make good soup.”  “I make good apps.” 

No, we live in an age of superlatives, and maybe we can thank PT Barnum for that, or the advantage of America’s ascension to dominance in the 20th century.   Whatever it is, it seems our want to be the best, the biggest, the greatest.   And I wonder if in doing that we’ve missed the fact that great rests upon good.  If the foundation isn’t good, if the core motive, the root cause is not “good,” then great becomes a facade, a label, a mere entreaty without moral intention.  

So the rebranding, strange as it may seem, is to step back and step down in order to step up. I want to tell my students to do “good things.” Because, in the end, that’s actually what I want.  That’s the goal of Social Impact design.  And we can do that, and know that, and measure that, I think, if we at least agree on moral standards of what it means to “do good.”

Some might look to this with cynicism,  perhaps even a bit of derision, “Who is he to believe that by doing good things he could change the world.”  I’ll take that challenge.  I want to live knowing I tried to do all I could to make the world a better place rather than simply bettering my own place in the world.

Published by Garreth Heidt

Designerly Minded High School Humanities and Liberal Studies Teacher Faculty Mentor FIRST Robotics Team #7414--PV Retrobotics. Constantly learning, trying to be more a maker and less a consumer of culture. I believe in the infinite value of a liberal education and the power of design thinking to help make the world a better place.

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