||[Sep. 13th, 2008|03:33 pm]
7d asked me to write something about a teacher that inspired me. Its published here. When they asked me to send them something I originally wrote something longer because I tend to be wordy when my fingers move. Obviously, I had to re-do it in short form. But this was the full thing. Its probably good I had to cut it way down.|
I have one teacher from Johnson State College who really changed my life. I don't remember her name and, by my reaction to what she did, I'm sure she doesn't remember mine either. The only thing she did was assign our American Lit class to read Ralph Waldo Emerson's The American Scholar.
Later I found out that this address to the Phi Beta Kappa society was called the "literary declaration of independence". To me it solidified what I was thinking about my own educational independence. I needed to drop out of school. One section in particular sealed the deal for me:
"Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books."
I grew up in libraries myself. I was never exceptionally smart. I always did ok in school. I loved to learn but I always found myself learning things that weren't being taught. That's why up until this point I stuck with school. I figured I was learning I might as well continue. Upon reading this address I realized that learning was everywhere. I was currently learning things incidentally and the only thing I needed to gain the knowledge I wanted was the desire to learn and the willingness to think.
I don't mean to say that structural education isn't valid. It is, after all, what led me to this decision and showed me I had everything I needed to learn what I wanted. Schools provide great opportunity if you recognize it and exploit it. It provides many tools, opportunities for connections and leadership that many professions need. Any of the sciences or engineering related professions for example require degrees that can only be provided through education. That is completely valid. Personally I was an English / Creative Writing student. I was left asking, what would a degree REALLY get me? Am I making connections I cant make elsewhere? If I took the money I am spending on college and put it in to my writing / music (my other love) would it help me more?
My decision was that it would. I learned that I can look at course plans online, find out what the assigned reading is for classes, and read the books for myself. I learned that I can buy a lot of gear for the price of an education and I will always be able to find a band that will let me record them for free until I got good at it. The willingness to pay attention, learn, and desire to work hard really provided invaluable experiences.
My teacher (and Ralph Waldo Emerson) unknowingly helped throw me into the world full of motivation and desire to learn. I consider myself very lucky to have learned a lot of things from every situation I've ever encountered, every book I have read, every person I've ever met and every project I've completed successfully / totally flubbed up. I continue to learn every day of my life and strive to make what I do better through hard work and understanding. I probably wont be building you your next house or developing new technology that will revolutionize the green energy industry but I will be living a life that I've always wanted to live.
Lots of times I wonder if I should go back to school and complete my degree. Every few years I look at applications from schools and think, 'From what I know now I could really make the educational system work for me'. Whenever I do this I also re-read The American Scholar as a gauge for whether or not I should try formal education again. Emerson did, after all, graduate from Harvard. It turns out this forces me to try harder at whatever project I am working on at the time and it challenges me to find a new way to learn from the world around me. It forces me to, as my teacher paraphrased the above quote, "Be my own Cicero."
I will never be a Cicero, Locke or Bacon but I will make sure I am me, doing the things I love, to the best of my ability. All thanks to my teacher. Whoever she was.