i think the problem is: i have lost all my beginning of the school year faith in the fact that school matters in any way at all. or maybe it is that i am like a basketball on a long flat carpet and at the beginning of the semester i got a nice strong kick from some imaginary leg and then i rolled along getting slower and slower (reading less and less, watching more and more internet tv) until i reached the last two weeks of school. i’m not moving at all anymore. this always happens.
today in my teaching literature class i presented my idea for a lit class based on emerson’s “the american scholar” essay. i love that essay. here is (near) the beginning, if you want your mind blown a little:
It is one of those fables, which, out of an unknown antiquity, convey an unlooked-for wisdom, that the gods, in the beginning, divided Man into men, that he might be more helpful to himself; just as the hand was divided into fingers, the better to answer its end.
The old fable covers a doctrine ever new and sublime; that there is One Man, — present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and that you must take the whole society to find the whole man. Man is not a farmer, or a professor, or an engineer, but he is all. Man is priest, and scholar, and statesman, and producer, and soldier. In the divided or social state, these functions are parcelled out to individuals, each of whom aims to do his stint of the joint work, whilst each other performs his. The fable implies, that the individual, to possess himself, must sometimes return from his own labor to embrace all the other laborers. But unfortunately, this original unit, this fountain of power, has been so distributed to multitudes, has been so minutely subdivided and peddled out, that it is spilled into drops, and cannot be gathered. The state of society is one in which the members have suffered amputation from the trunk, and strut about so many walking monsters, — a good finger, a neck, a stomach, an elbow, but never a man.
Man is thus metamorphosed into a thing, into many things. The planter, who is Man sent out into the field to gather food, is seldom cheered by any idea of the true dignity of his ministry. He sees his bushel and his cart, and nothing beyond, and sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the farm. The tradesman scarcely ever gives an ideal worth to his work, but is ridden by the routine of his craft, and the soul is subject to dollars. The priest becomes a form; the attorney, a statute-book; the mechanic, a machine; the sailor, a rope of a ship.
In this distribution of functions, the scholar is the delegated intellect. In the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking.
i love this. like a lot. but i was connecting it to personal narratives which relates better to the end of the essay. anyway, after listening to my teacher and my classmates give me ideas, and feeling their ideas give my shoulders an angry feeling, it occurred to me that what i really want is to teach a class about why you shouldn’t be in school. and be serious about it. maybe start the class with writing on the board “why is it bad to be educated?” i mean, it isn’t as easy as not going to school; the point is to be CRITICAL of the things people tell you to think. but i don’t want to do it in a cute way or an impersonal way. i mean, i don’t want to have a class where we “talk about themes of alienation” because what the fuck does that mean anyway? i want a class where every single student realizes they are alienated and does something about it.
is this possible? or does being in a classroom immediately disengage students so much that they can never actively connect with anything a teacher says or introduces ever on a personal level?
clearly i need some scare tactics. maybe i could start the class with a viewing of american history x. is that irrelevant? i want to do that. not clips. the whole thing. together.
not about teaching but as important: i went into kinko’s today to finally pick up my books. i thought if i went in early the dudes i have previously infuriated might not be around. wrong. they were all there and one of them even said, “oh look, it’s our token oregonian.”
anyway. clearly i am about ready for summertime. pete is bringing an electric beater and an ice cream maker and surf boards. for real. two more weeks.