Archive for July 13th, 2012

“I loaf and invite my soul”

July 13, 2012

Enjoying Andrew delBanco’s College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be. Every prospective student should read it. (Hint hint, Older Daughter.)

It’s chock-full of deep pedagogical wisdom from the likes of James, Dewey, Emerson, and Whitman, who said “I loaf and invite my soul”: now there’s a walker’s credo. And a biker’s, hiker’s, floater’s…

“Loafing.” That’s a more straightforwardly descriptive term for the   haughtily buttoned-down “contemplation” of the overly-cerebral and stationary style of thought. You can keep your Thinker, thoughtful walkers are Loafers – in the very best sense of the term. And they’re collaborators too, btw, not just solitary meditators. A collegium is a society or a community actively educating itself through mutuality of purpose and exchange. And that’s why my Intro courses are now called CoPhilosophy. “The pluralistic form takes a stronger hold on reality,” more creative and more fun. More true, too.

Delbanco also writes:

The most important thing one can acquire in college is a well-functioning bullshit meter. [Or baloney if you prefer.] It’s a technology that will never become obsolete.

And the most important reward of a liberal education: quality time, for a lifetime, with your most intimate personal acquaintance.

“You want the inside of your head to be an interesting place to spend the rest of your life.”

Like Delbanco, I wouldn’t dream of denying that plenty of interesting people skip college. But as he points out, people who say college is not for everyone tend to have in mind other people’s kids.

What they probably don’t have in mind is an older ideal of college, one that teaches you how to loaf and enjoy it, and learn from it. That’s in danger these days. I’m glad Delbanco’s reminding us of how much we stand to lose if we don’t recapture it from the “outcomes”-oriented academic bureaucrats and anti-intellectual dopes who tend to hold higher education’s purse-strings in this country.


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