Education and the pleasure of thinking

Edith Hamilton — a worthy intellectual companion indeed — once said something that ought to be emblazoned on the wall of every classroom and discussed at length by every teacher and teacher-wannabe, so wonderfully does it encapsulate a vital truth that cuts neatly through the endless layers of bullshit that encrust the contemporary theory and praxis of education:

It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education, so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought — that is to be educated (from The Saturday Evening Post, September 27, 1958).

This is more than tangentially related to a famous and worthwhile observation from Sydney J. Harris:

The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s leisure.

Oh, how I wish these subversive (in the contemporary environment) quotes could be dropped like philosophical bombs on the bloated and technique-infested corporatocratic corruption that is the modern American higher education establishment.

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on October 8, 2009, in Education and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I like this a lot. I’m going to try to find away to sneak it into one of my lessons.

  2. EnigmaticWinter

    Yes but who would understand it but those who already embrace it?

  3. here, here!

    Perhaps it’s the weather and the time of year, as I was blogging about the same thing before I visited your blog – http://gotld.blogspot.com/2009/10/college-daze.html

  4. Glad you liked it, all.

    notsoace: I wish you success in your ideological sabotage effort.

    EnigmaticWinter: You’re talking about a dilemma that has preoccupied me, too. Obviously, it is in fact quite possible for some people to be awakened from their apathetic, brainwashed slumbers in certain circumstances and by certain stimuli. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact of any of us grooving with the ideas expressed in this post? But more than once — more than ten thousand times — when thinking about such things, I have flashed on Jesus of Nazareth’s cryptic and profound pronouncement that, when it comes to certain (really, really important) things, “To those who already have, more will be given, but to those who do not already have, even what they have will be taken away.” And this has aroused real feelings of hopelessness and futility for me as a professional educator (which, perhaps not incidentally, is a job whose very thought made Socrates cringe).

    KP: Loved your blog post. Indeed, maybe the weather’s to blame. Or maybe it’s just great minds and all that.

  5. Ah, yes, but Jesus is also reported to have said, “Knock and it shall be opened. Ask and you shall receive.”
    Matt should know better than to prooftext!
    Though yes, the quote you point to may be the more relevant here. I’m just not enough of an intellectual elitist to bring myself to say it.

  6. EnigmaticWinter

    i quite agree with both quotes. I do believe that people can be awakened, but more and more do i see people who don’t care and haven’t the slightest clue that they are turning into mindless zombies without any free will of their own. Society says “stand out like so and so” yet that very sentence doubles back on itself. By standing out “like someone else” you aren’t standing out at all. “Go to school to get a job.” Why would i go to school in order to get a job when i don’t really even care about getting a job? How are we to get the attention of people who want nothing more than to be a part of the status quo? Especially since they do not even realize that this is what they are wanting. Who among us has aspirations to do something great? Who has goals to rise aboce the mediocrity of today’s standards? We lower the standards for success every year and then wonder why or school system is declining. We remain blind to everything that stands to have purpose. I ask again: how do we open the minds of people who don’t even know their eyes are closed?

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