Walden is divided into 18 thematic chapters. The first two "Economy" and "Where I Lived, and What I Lived for" were rather long, but the rest were shorter essays. One of these is on "Reading" and the importance lifelong learning and reading books, but not just any books, not the "Little Reading" of "several volumes in [the] Circulating Library" that will not help to expand our minds, but rather will keep us as children by keeping "our reading, our conversation, and thinking...all on a very low level, worthy only of pygmies and manikins." As a society we should "not stop short at a pedagogue, a parson, a sexton, a parish library, and three selectman because our pilgrim forefathers got through a cold winter once on a bleak rock with these." Thoreau advocates for villages in New England to "act collectively" to "hire all the wise men in the world to come and teach her (New England)." Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men."
Thoreau eloquently speaks to both my passions - of reading, and of learning for its own sake. I am afraid that the educational assessment craze will cause colleges and universities to become less effective at teaching students to learn as they (the universities) are forced, through political motives, to move toward "measuring outcomes".
|My daugher, Paloma, in deep thought at Walden Pond - Halloween 1999|