Guest Blogger! Emerson


It started with a pin on Pinterest. Just a nifty little image with a quotation attributed to Emerson.

A lovely message, and before I pinned it to my “Teacher Stuff” board, I wanted to make sure that, indeed, Mr. Emerson was the author. 

Based on numerous quotation pages, it looked like he was; however, the wording was a bit different. Nevertheless, knowing that surely, surely, Emerson would have something even more powerful to say on the topic of effective teaching, I decided to read his blog post…oops…essay on “Education” from Lectures and Biographical Sketches.

One of my English classes creatively theorized that his writing was not unlike the construction of a brick wall—layer by layer.  Thus, I’ve taken some artistic advantage with his visual presentation because our tired old 21st century eyes—bless them—can’t take the depth of paragraph that Emerson so artistically lays out for us. Additionally, any emphases/underlining and [clarifications] are mine. 

I’m both pleased (and somewhat embarrassed) that some of the teaching methodologies in our upcoming book, Transparent Teaching, are present here. However, there’s no way that I could have said it like this. 

From "Education": 

I believe that our own experience instructs us that the secret of Education lies in respecting the pupil. 

It is not for you to choose what he shall know, what he shall do. Respect the child. Wait and see the new product of Nature. Nature loves analogies, but not repetitions. Respect the child. Be not too much his parent. Trespass not on his solitude. 

But I hear the outcry which replies to this suggestion:

—Would you verily throw up the reins of discipline; would you leave the young child to the mad career of his own passions and whimsies, and call this anarchy a respect for the child's nature? 

I answer, Respect the child, respect him to the end, but also respect yourself. Be the companion of his thought, the friend of his friendship, the lover of his virtue, – but no kinsman of his sin. Let him find you so true to yourself that you are the irreconcilable hater of his vice and imperturbable slighter of his trifling.

Have the self-command you wish to inspire. Teach them to hold their tongues by holding your own. Say little; do not snarl; do not chide; but govern by the eye. See what they need, and that the right thing is done.

I confess myself utterly at a loss in suggesting particular reforms in our ways of teaching. No discretion that can be lodged with a school-committee, with the overseers or visitors of an academy, of a college, can at all avail to reach these difficulties and perplexities, but they [those difficulties and perplexities] solve themselves when we leave institutions and address individuals.

I advise teachers to cherish mother-wit. I assume that you will keep the grammar, reading, writing and arithmetic in order; ‘t is easy and of course you will. 

But smuggle in a little contraband wit, fancy, imagination, thought. 

If you have a taste which you have suppressed because it is not shared by those about you, tell them that. Set this law up, whatever becomes of the rules of the school: they must not whisper, much less talk; but if one of the young people says a wise thing, greet it, and let all the children clap their hands. 

They shall have no book but school-books in the room; but if one has brought in a Plutarch or Shakespeare or Don Quixote or Goldsmith or any other good book, and understands what he reads, put him at once at the head of the class. 

Nobody shall be disorderly, or leave his desk without permission, but if a boy runs from his bench, or a girl, because the fire falls, or to check some injury that a little dastard is inflicting behind his desk on some helpless sufferer, take away the medal from the head of the class and give it on the instant to the brave rescuer. 

If a child happens to show that he knows any fact about astronomy, or plants, or birds, or rocks, or history, that interests him and you, hush all the classes and encourage him to tell it so that all may hear. 

Then you have made your school-room like the world. 

Of course you will insist on modesty in the children, and respect to their teachers, but if the boy stops you in your speech, cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him!

To whatsoever upright mind, to whatsoever beating heart I speak, to you it is committed to educate men.

Emerson would have soooooo been a blogger.

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