So I’ve been wanting to write about “wisdom” for about six months now—especially in relation to literature, my job as an English teacher, and the state of our culture in general. I’ve had some awesome talks with Melissa, and some inspiring talks with fellow teachers, my church group, and good friends, but I wanted to write some of these ideas down. So today was exciting for two reasons—I finally wrote an article, and I published it as my first “real” piece as a freelance writer for The Atlantic’s website.
Here’s the link to “The Wisdom Deficit in Schools,” which peaked at #2 on the “most popular” list of their website.
Some post-publication thoughts:
1. The general feedback (on Twitter and elsewhere) was really positive and exciting.
2. I absolutely loved working with The Atlantic. Very professional, and very good for my writing (even if it as a little humbling at times).
3. I actually liked what the commenters wrote at the bottom of the article. It seems like an educated, reasonable, and caring audience (for the most part).
Some of my favorite reactions and comments from the article:
1. Somebody included a quote from Flannery O’Connor:
“The high-school English teacher will be fulfilling his responsibility if he furnishes the student a guided opportunity, through the best writing of the past, to come, in time, to an understanding of the best writing of the present. He will teach literature, not social studies or little lessons in democracy or the customs of many lands. And if the student finds that this is not to his taste? Well, that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted: it is being formed.”
2. Somebody touched on an issue that might be the topic of my next piece: “There is a debate we are having in the United States right now without realizing we are having it or we are not being direct about the stakes and real issue. I think the real issue is a debate over the point and purpose of education. One side seems to believe that the point and purpose of education is merely economic. They want education to produce better workers…The other side believes that there is a higher purpose to education and that is to create a citizenry that is intellectually curious and loves the world. Or as the author of this piece mentions, they want education to focus a bit more on intangibles like values and a love for learning and literature and discovery. This is very hard to put on a graph. Can education stand to be reformed? Probably. The question is which side should hold the reforms.
3. Another possible future topic is a reflection on whether this gradual movement away from classic literature will make the classics something of an elitist luxury. Somebody beat me to the punch: “It has been disproportionately the realm of the upper classes, and this is because it requires vast amounts of time and repeated and deep exposure, under some level of well-honed and cosmopolitan guidance.”
4. And somebody else pointed out: “It’s like Brave New World; technical reading for the future technicians and literature for the young Alphas.” Is this is true (I forget), what a perfect allusion).
And finally, I’m really enjoying hearing from different types of people, from different parts of the country. I recently read something like, “In these modern times, it’s not really collaboration if you stay on your own school site.” I believed it, but I’m really feeling it now. I’m learning new ideas and fresh perspectives from totally different occupations, from totally different regions.
All this is making me excited to keep writing, keep thinking, and keep teaching. If you have any comments on the article, feel free to leave them below—just don’t kill my buzz.