Sunday, July 27, 2008

Can "meaningful" higher education embrace technology AND personal interaction?

"In an age when higher education is threatened with a relentless technology that threatens to dispense with human beings altogether, Professor Van Doren exemplified a tradition of inquiry that celebrates personal interaction as the path to a meaningful education — one shaped by spontaneity, emotion and, yes, reverence." … "Mark Van Doren believed that young people were intuitively capable of grasping even the most complex literature."

Above from: "Notebook: Kerouac Got an A," by Adam Van Doren, NY Times, "Education Life," July 27, 2008, p. 38. "A grandson remembers the professor who inspired a generation of literary giants."

For more excerpts and links to full text, see the following and below.
"Seminar over, the students would follow their professor out of the classroom, conversing as he crossed the campus. Down into the subway they would go, even onto the train, not stopping until they reached the entrance to his townhouse in Greenwich Village. Finally, their professor, genially and perhaps reluctantly, would say, “Well, that’s it, boys, I’ve got to call it a day,” and then he would close the door, leaving those impressionable young men dazed on the sidewalk, wondering how they had landed so far from Morningside Heights." …

"My grandfather maintained bonds with students that lasted long after they graduated, and they in turn revered him." …

“Mark’s questions were very good and if you tried to answer them intelligently,” Merton wrote, “you found yourself saying excellent things that you did not know you knew, and that you had not, in fact, known before. He had ‘educed’ them from you by this question.” …

"The professor kept corresponding with these college youths years later, suggesting career paths, critiquing their manuscripts, promoting their work — even writing poems about them. “Death of a Monk (T. M.)” was written shortly after Merton’s death. He contacted publishers about promising students, encouraging Kerouac to publish “The Town and the City.” Kerouac quit the football team after getting an A in “Shakespeare.” (It should be noted that though the ledgers show my grandfather was a tough grader, those who would go on to make a literary impression on the world also did so in his classroom.)"


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