When I first read Wendell Berry's 1985 essay "What Are People For?" 12 years ago, I was in college preparing to do exactly what Berry says that colleges prepare people to do—move to someplace that is not home and serve the economy. I read with academic disinterest his lament for the fate of the many "country people" who moved to cities and became unemployed.
As a child Richard Feynman once asked his father why a ball went to the back of a wagon when he pulled the wagon forward. His father said it was inertia. When Feynman asked what inertia was, his father said it is the name scientists give to the movement of a ball to the back of a wagon, but in truth no one really knows what it is. Feynman went on to get degrees at MIT and Princeton, and he won a Nobel Prize in physics. He attributed his success in science to the curiosity engendered by that conversation with his father. The simplest questions can carry us to the edge of knowledge, and that’s where he wanted to play (TED Radio Hour, June 12).