Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Self-Reliance

My sophomores are officially sick of this year's reading list. "Whiners or hippies! All of 'em", snarled one young objecter this morning. He was decked out in his best affectation of post-emo youth. Oh, so hipper-than-thou. When did they abandon emo, I wondered. Am I that behind or did I just stop caring?

We're in the process of beginning a journey into the wild and wacky world of Transcendentalism. It's important to remember, when considering the basic tenants of this philosophy, that a mere drop of dew is, in fact, a microcosm of the entire universe. It is also important to remember that a mere sophomore is a microcosm of the larger student body, none of whom wants to contemplate the larger meaning of this at 7:45 on a Tuesday morning. They would prefer to fill classrooms with deafening silence while furitively sneaking pieces of doughnut from their bookbags and wishing that there were more than 10 kids in the class so they could get away with whipping out their phones to text message their buddies in the next room.

I don't know if you've read Ralph Waldo Emerson's"Self-Reliance". In a nutshell: listen to your conscience, do what you think is right no matter what others think, to be great is to be misunderstood. They really latched onto that last part. "If being great is being misunderstood, then I am going to tell my mom to stop grounding me because you gave me a D on the midterm. Clearly, you just didn't understand my brilliant insights on the essay you asked us to write where we compared the significance of a dead pig's head on display in both Animal Farm and The Lord of the Flies."

Well, no. Really, I couldn't understand your handwriting. But, yes, have your mom call me. Please.

I decided to go in a different direction.

"Trust thyself!" I exhorted them. "Emerson felt that every individual knew for his or her own self what was right or wrong based on their own experience." "Ok", replied one girl in the back corner, "so why does he need to use seven paragraphs to tell me this? My sense of right and wrong is telling me that he could have shortened up this essay by about 6 paragraphs."

This is about the point that I decided not to tell them that they were reading the abridged version of the essay.

And I truly believe that that was the right thing to do.

That and make them write a 400 word response on whether or not they agree with Emerson that evil truly does not exist for homework. I expect that this will be skewed by the fact that they collectively believe that all homework is evil.

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4 comments:

Dave Morris said...

Sure, a drop of dew is a microcosm, but what is a drop of Laphroaig? Answer, a tease.

Now I'm thirsty and it's only 8 am.

Steven Novak said...

Isn't all homework evil?

No? ;)

Steve~

Violet said...

More power to you. I can imagine what trying to get 15-year-olds to care about transcendentalism must be like...

And thanks for the update on emo. I am soooo behind the times.

Ari said...

At first I wondered why sophomores might not enjoy the idea that people do their own thing and do whatever they feel is right, until I remembered that they all just want to do what everyone else is doing.

I no longer know where I was going with this.