Friday, October 7, 2016

Putting away childish things

In reading over your first collective projects, one of the recurrent themes is the departure of childhood, and of "childish things." As children, we're encouraged to use our imagination; as adults, it's suddenly time to stifle our curiosity and put our collective noses to the grindstone. Indeed, modern education seems almost designed to assassinate the spirit, to replace curiosity and passion with dulness and complicity, and mere fanciful tales with what the "Common Core" curriculum describes as "informational texts." College, at least in theory, is a place for exploration, for renewal of passion, and the finding of a vocation -- but too often it, too, is reduced to a mere utilitarian list of skills, goals, and "outcomes."

So where do you see yourself in all this? Where is the line between childhood and adulthood, and should we, indeed, put away our childish loves? What does the college experience have to do with this, and what are your expectations for this institution and yourselves as you embark upon your college years? For this in-class writing, take as your prompt one of the three quotations below. You may agree, disagree, or simply be stirred to write about the claims made in these passages -- but begin, in any case, by stating your response to them as clearly as you can. Then go on to address these larger questions as given above.

Here are the three writing prompts for today:

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. -- Albert Einstein

Passing hence from infancy, I came to boyhood, or rather it came to me, displacing infancy. Nor did that depart,—(for whither went it?)—and yet it was no more. For I was no longer a speechless infant, but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed how I learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words (as, soon after, other learning) in any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that so I saw and remembered that they called what they would point out, by the name they uttered. And that they meant this thing and no other, was plain from the motion of their body, the natural language, as it were, of all nations, expressed by the countenance, glances of the eye, gestures of the limbs, and tones of the voice, indicating the affections of the mind, as it pursues, possesses, rejects, or shuns. And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human life, still subject to parental authority and the beck of elders. -- St. Augustine, Confessions.

For our knowledge is unperfect, and our prophesying is unperfect: but when that which is perfect is come: then that which is unperfect shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I imagined as a child: but when I became s a man I put away childish things. Now we see through a glass darkly: but then shall we shall see face to face. Now I know unperfectly: but then shall I know even as I am known. Now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the greatest of these is love. -- St. Paul, I Corinthians 13

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