Philosophy of Education

I went to school to learn. That may seem self-evident. It should be self-evident. But it is not.

As I reflect back, I see that many of my colleagues did not go to school to learn–at least, that was not their primary objective. I remember asking one of my Harvard English professors why it was that hardly anybody in class asked questions or even spoke. The distressing reason was that the students wanted to make a good impression on their professor. Silence is less risky than asking a question that could indict the interlocuter. But I asked a lot of questions when I didn’t understand something, or when I disagreed with an interpretation. I was less concerned with the way I looked than I was concerned with learning.

I remember talking with a professor at a wine and cheese social. We were talking about students who try to ingratiate themselves with influential professors. It happened to be an influential professor I was talking to. He told me that it is so obvious when students try to do it. Then he exclaimed, “You’re not like that, David!” Never have been.

My academic major was not calculated to lead to a tenured faculty position. Were I interested in an academic career, I would have been an English major, or would have majored in scriptures, or ethics, or history, or any number of well-established academic disciplines. But I majored in religion and literature. There were only two major universities in the US that had religion and literature majors. Not a promising discipline to major in.

But I wanted to learn about modes that express meaning. I believe that two leading ways humanity has expressed meaning are religion and literature. I already had a B.A. in philosophy. I achieved my aim of learning about meaning. I learned about poetry and about religions and they taught me about meaning in life. And, more importantly, I learned how to continue my learning after school. And I continue to learn, even in these, my senior years.

I am not commending the path and approach I took to education. I was never tenured, never had much of an academic career. But I’m at a stage in life when many of my friends are done with their careers. So it’s all in the past with all of us. And, finally, in these my senior years, I am happy with the learning I have pursued and continue to pursue, and the subsequent life I have cultivated and now live.