Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mark Bauerlein on learning

Mark Bauerlein on what makes education possible:

For education to happen, people must encounter worthwhile things outside their sphere of influence and brainpower. Knowledge grows, skills improve, tastes refine, and conscience ripens only if the experiences bear a degree of unfamiliarity — a beautiful artwork you are forced to inspect even though it leaves you cold; an ancient city you have to detail even though history puts you to sleep; a microeconomic problem you have to solve even though you fumble with arithmetic. To take them in, to assimilate the objects intelligently, the intellectual tool kit must expand and attitudes must soften. If the first apprehension stalls, you can’t mutter, “I don’t get it — this isn’t for me.” You have to say, “I don’t get it, and maybe that’s my fault.” You have to accept the sting of relinquishing a cherished notion, of admitting a defect in yourself. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s simple admonition should be the rule: “You must change your life.”

From The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2008).
Bauerlein’s insulting title makes me wince. His sub-subtitle — Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30 — makes me cringe. My thoughts about poetry and difficulty are far different from his. But I like what he says in this passage about persistence and humility in the face of the unfamiliar.

“You must change your life”: “Du mußt dein Leben ändern,” from the last line of “Archaïscher Torso Apollos” [Archaic torso of Apollo].

Related posts
John Holt on learning and difficulty
Learning, failure, and character

comments: 2

Daughter Number Three said...

Are you familiar with unschooling? I wondered what you think about it when I read this piece recently:

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for the link, DN3. I have strong objections to intellectual impoverishment and regimentation, but he loses me when he begins by likening public education to slavery. I’m adding his movie to my list though.