Thoreau on education


in Writing

From Walden:

“But,” says one, “you do not mean that the students should go work with their hands instead of their heads?” I do not mean that exactly, but I mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? Methinks this would exercise their minds as much as mathematics. If I wished a boy to know something about the arts and sciences, for instance, I would not pursue the common course, which is merely to send him into the neighbourhood of some professor, where any thing is processed and practiced but the art of life; – to survey the world through a telescope or a microscope, and never with his natural eye; to study chemistry, and not learn how his bread is made, or mechanics, and not learn how it is earned; to discover new satellites to Neptune, and not detect the motes in his eyes, or to what vagabond he is a satellite himself; or to be devoured by the monsters that swarm all around him, while contemplating the monsters in a drop of vinegar. Which would have advanced the most at the end of a month, – the boy who had made his own jackknife from the ore which he had dug and smelted, reading as much as would be necessary for this, – or the boy who had attended the lectures on metallurgy at the Institute in the mean while, and had received a Rogers’ penknife from his father?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

coyote August 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Trying not to be all OCD, but ummm… Thoreau on education?

Milan August 23, 2012 at 12:40 am

Fixed – thanks

anon August 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm

A student that made his own jackknife today would probably end up in a psychiatrist’s office – if not a jail cell.

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