Wednesday, February 22, 2012
a day in the Ivory Tower
Today has been different. I sat by the fireplace in McConn (IWU's cafe), drank coffee and talked with young people serious about what they wanted to do and serious about their dreams. They are not all confident and certain, but they are passionate and engaged. They are in an institution which is educating them. I'm thinking about that.
Is education a commodity which can be bought and sold? Am I an idealist to think that an education is something that comes through hard work and personal effort? Something which requires asking difficult questions. Something which involves listening to those you disagree with, reading books that make you uncomfortable. Something which reaches deep into you and touches the living soul of you and challenges you to do the impossible.
Somehow, it appears that our culture has turned education into a product. Don't get me wrong, I was in a marvelous setting today: I saw young people sitting around working on their computers, reading, socializing, debating, being serious (and sometimes silly). It was perfect for a 21st century version of "The Aeropagus". I heard hard questions, icons shattered, and genuine heartfelt desire to learn and grow.
But within this fertile context, the structure was muddied with required classes, evaluations and assessments, drudge assignments, and a lack of sense of the intrinsic value. Education is being confused with codified, quantified packets of information, handed out, masticated and regurgitated. Education is being choked by training in a way of thought rather than how to think.
But these young people are seeing that their education is theirs to grasp. More than grades and notes and evaluations. More than what a panel of people somewhere deemed part of the basic requirements. And they are going to make changes, I hope. So much depends on a return to genuine love of learning.