Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ralph Waldo Emerson and "The American Scholar"

Emerson uses Transcendentalist and romantic views to get his points across by explaining a true American scholar's relationship to education. Here are a few of my key points he makes that flesh out this vision:

• The individual has two states of mind- "the divided" or "degenerate state", where we do not follow our inner selves but simply become an occupation or monotonous action; and the "right state" where we elevate the self to "Man"

• "The planter, who is Man sent out into the field to gather food... sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the farm" ("The American Scholar") To gain this higher state of mind, the modern scholar rejects past thinking and think for him or herself, becoming "Man Thinking" rather than "a mere thinker.”or still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking"

• The "American Scholar" has an obligation, as "Man Thinking" within this "One Man" concept, to see the world clearly, not severely influenced by traditional/historical views, and to broaden his understanding of the world from fresh eyes, to "defer never to the popular cry."

o The scholar's education consists of three pursuits.

1. Investigate and understand nature, which includes the scholar's own mind and person.

2. Take action -- interact with the world; do not become the recluse thinker commenting from afar.

 3. The scholar's duty or "office" is to "cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances."
     Just some thoughts on the state of education today. Does "No Child left behind" encourage this type of thought? I fear that in a short time we may be paying the price for "cookie cutter" education and uninspired teaching. Just saying.

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