Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Meaning of a Liberal Education

In 1909, Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, delivered an address to the New York City High School Teachers Association. That address is best remembered from this quote, which I have repeated before in this blog.
"We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."
It is always challenging when a whole speech is reduced to a single quote. But I have found a web address at which, The Meaning of a Liberal Education can be read in its entirety online and place Wilson's quote in clearer context. Wilson when viewed may thus be seen as more moderate and less harsh in his reasoning than that single quote suggests.
"There is one sentence with which I always open my classes, a sentence quoted from Burke, in my opinion the only entirely wise writer upon public affairs in the English language. Burke says, “Institutions must be adjusted to human nature; of which reason constitutes a part, but by no means the principal part.” You cannot develop human nature by devoting yourselves entirely to the intellectual sides of it. Intellectual life is the flower of a thing much wider and richer than itself. The man whom we deem the mere man of books we reject as a counsellor, because he is separated in his thinking from the rich flow of life. It is the rich flow of life, compact of emotion, compact of all those motives which are unsusceptible of analysis, which produces the fine flower of literature and the solid products of thinking."
In other words, Wilson would not fail to see the reasons for children to be placed in better touch with reality. Without the plane, the saw, the chisel, the aspirations of humanity, what would we write poetry about?

On yesterday's topic of effective doodling, expert doodler and corporate facilitator John Ward suggests the following:
"It comes after I've taught them to do blind contour drawing (with a 12" piece of black thread) and addressed the notion that doodling has great potential because it tends to quiet the monkey mind and put one in tune with one's subconscious. In this mode, "mindless" can be spun as "mulling," a way to shut off your yapper while someone else is talking.

But doodling can be elevated to MINDFUL and super-conscious if one wants to raise the stakes. The next time you find yourself doodling, pause and look up (most people are intently looking at their doodle when they're doing it) without lifting your pen. Look up and start doing a blind contour drawing of anything, ANYTHING that catches your eye. The mind state change is almost instantaneous. You don't and shouldn't pay any attention to the marks - just the act of actively looking and marking."
Try it and let John or I know how it works for you.

Make, fix and create. Not only will you inhabit your own life with physical beauty, you may discover something worth writing about.

1 comment:

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