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Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

As a person who finds interest in many subjects in and out of school environments, the prospect of being a “Jack of all trades” has indeed occurred to me, though I do not agree with its negative connotations. Personally, I have always found value in diversifying my interests and being exposed to a variety of subjects. Now, however, as my classmates and I begin to look forward to our upcoming final year of high school – and especially to the upcoming university application season – I have begun to wonder if university admissions boards share my opinion. Should students strive to be involved in a variety of activities or should they limit themselves to specific interests to demonstrate focus?

Popular media reflects and exaggerates the realities of life. I suggest that the inverse is also possible: human life has begun to reflect the comedic hyperboles of movies and television programs. The once-comedic exaggerations of high school cliques has begun to manifest in reality, as though high school students themselves have unanimously decided that they must fit the mold of the status quo.

I feel obliged to ask, What is the problem with wide-ranging interests? Why shouldn’t students feel not only encouraged but compelled to dabble in many areas? It’s ironic that this should be brought up, as it recalls a conversation I had earlier in English class about the dystopian novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In class, we discussed how Huxley demonstrates the ins and outs of a totalitarian state and makes specific reference to a human’s purpose: “For particulars, as everyone knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils,” (Huxley 10). I would argue that this is incorrect, and instead I believe that generalities imply a wide breadth of knowledge. Furthermore, generalities imply passion: having enough drive to balance a range of activities with success is impressive. Students who are involved in multiple activities learn not only the skills of the activities themselves, but how to live a balanced lifestyle, how to commit and persevere, and how to work with many different people.

The debate of generalities versus particularities is fed by pressure from outside sources that promote an idealist perfection, suggesting that youth must be focused masters of their chosen craft to be successful. Eventually, we must admit that students do not have to choose their “thing” just yet. It is equally important that students have the time to learn, grow, and change. Perhaps, in time, a collection of diverse skills will contribute in developing a specific interest: a Jack of all trades, master of one, a student who is skilled in many fields, and who possesses a focus of interest. It is common for TFS students to obsess over deciding everything about their futures the moment they don their Level 1 blazers. We must remember the original and complete saying: A Jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

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