Thoreau on “uncommon schools.” What do we mean by good jobs and education? (Walden 74)

“It is time that we had uncommon schools, that we did not leave off our education when we begin to be men and women. It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure — if they are, indeed, so well off — to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Reading,” Walden

Technology has enabled an expansion of continuing education in ways that Henry couldn’t even imagine. But what I find interesting here is something that he doesn’t draw attention to, probably because to him it’s so obvious, and in one way or another he’s been talking about it throughout the book: notice that he sees education not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. What else would you do if you had leisure in your old age but keep studying and learning?

This attitude is at odds with our growing perception of education as being strictly job training. Everyone wants the next generation to be qualified for good jobs and to be able to provide for their families. But there’s a world of difference in saying, “I want them to get an education so they can get a good job,” and “I want them to get good jobs that provide the time and resources to continue their education.” Not only is the order of priority different in these two sentences, but “good job” and “education” take on different meanings as well.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)

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3 thoughts on “Thoreau on “uncommon schools.” What do we mean by good jobs and education? (Walden 74)

  1. kizialorren

    This is true and sad at the same time that although we need good education for a brighter future, it should not be viewed that way. Education should be something that is perceived out of curiousity and a priviledge for everyone and should therefore not just be taken for granted.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Thoreau on “uncommon schools.” What...

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