For as long as I have lived, education meant learning from what has already been done – existing knowledge and past discoveries. For a while, I even thought that learning simply meant memorizing the list of facts written into a textbook by a person to whom we’d never even give a second thought. I was labeled as “intelligent” simply because I had perfectly memorized the knowledge that scholars have shared with us. Being thought as intelligent to other people should feel like a rare compliment, but how does one go about calling another intelligent simply due to the extent of facts they have in their heads? This concept never seemed right to me.Order now
I could never place my finger on the reason why; but that changed after I read the “American Scholar. ” The “American Scholar” was a speech written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer, and poet in the 1800s, to Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1837 to encourage the scholars of his nation to go beyond the conventional archetypes of learning. Emerson’s ideas are still very prevalent in today’s education system; hence, I will be discussing the ideas of past learning and developing self-trust, how those ideas are related to certain aspects of my life, and how it could assist me in my progress towards being a better student.
Emerson has pointed out a multitude of great ideas, but the ones that I find particularly profound are past learning and developing self-trust. According to Emerson, books, or in a more general notion, the past, could potentially pose as a threat to scholars. He stated, “I had better never see a book than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my own orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system” (Emerson 4). I found this idea extremely significant because it is something of which most of us are guilty. We enjoy learning, we enjoy reading, but how often do we actually process the information that our minds receive?
How often do we question the content of what has been readily given to us? The vast majority of the world is guilty of being trapped in a monotonous cycle of accepting new information, but never giving. The possibility of a new discovery seems like a distant dream to everyone. “Only geniuses can invent” is what we tell ourselves. Emerson also said that true scholars must develop an unflinching sense of self-trust. “In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time. He states, ”-happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that his day he has seen something truly” (Emerson 8).
This idea stood out to me because more often than not, people tend to forgo their unique ideas or individual thoughts due to fear and uncertainty. We hear thousands of voices chanting to the same words so loudly that it drowns out the idea that we once had. We lose ourselves to the opinions of others. Because of that, Emerson tells us that we need to stay strong to what we believe in, and not let the opinions of others deter us from what we know and trust.
What we believe in might ruffle a few feathers, but at the end of the day, all that matters is our own satisfaction in discovery. There are certain aspects of my life that I feel are deeply related to Emerson’s ideas. Books – past learning – can potentially be a problem to scholars if it is used the wrong way (Emerson 3). Emerson stated, “Hence, the book-learned class, who value books, as such; not as related to nature and the human constitution, but as making sort of Third Estate with the world and soul” (4). I used to be what Emerson would call a “book worm. ” I was a very studious pupil.
If anyone were to randomly pick a question out of the textbook, I would be able to answer it exactly like the answer in the book verbatim. I filled myself with words written by a divine poet and thought that I was as successful and rich with knowledge, only to realize that instead of being a divine poet, I was the degenerate state of a scholar – a parrot of another man’s thinking (Emerson 2). I only knew what was written down on paper, but nothing beyond that margin. The thought of these supposedly factual information being potentially inaccurate never occurred to me.
In my head, these facts are set in stone and unchangeable; so how exactly do we go beyond information that has already been found? Other than that, Emerson believes that self-trust is essential to every scholar. He stated, “Some great decorum, some fetish of the government, some ephemeral trade, or war, or man, is cried up by half mankind and cried down by the other half, as if all depended on this particular up or down” (Emerson 8). Emerson suggested that no matter what, there will always be differing opinions and conflict, but even so, we shouldn’t let that affect our individual natures.
No matter what we do, good or bad, there will be a person out there who disagrees with our actions. I truly relate to this idea because I’ve always been easily affected by the opinions of others. I’m terrified of facing conflict and disagreements, so much so that I try my best to avoid it by forgoing my own nature altogether for the sake of letting others dominate; but when I began trusting myself, and when I began accepting the fact that I will never be able to please everyone, I realized that I became more confident in expressing my own opinion and without the fear of judgment or opposition.
When I truly believed in myself, no disagreement could bring me down. Emerson’s ideas are very much involved with scholars and education, and I think that those ideas could assist in my progress towards being an overall more capable student. Emerson stated that, “when the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold illusion And the sense of our author is as broad as the world” (Emerson 4). If we studied a book while envisioning it in the author’s perspective, we would be able to get a clearer picture of the true meaning the author is trying to get across.
If we carve the words that we read into our minds, it’ll only be mindless words. Varying arrangements of letters that carry no meaning – it might as well be called artificial knowledge. We should always aim to seek for a deeper meaning instead of merely skimming across the surface. Also, Emerson promoted the importance of having self-trust. “Free should the scholar be, – free and brave,” says Emerson, “Free even to the definition of freedom, ‘without any hindrance that does not arise out of his own constitution’” (Emerson 8).
We need to stop creating obstacles for ourselves, especially when those obstacles do not exist within our capabilities. As a student, I constantly bombard myself with excuses that create imaginary obstacles in my academic journey. I constantly tell myself that I am too tired, I cannot do this, I will fail at this test, et cetera; but deep down inside, I know for a fact that if I put my mind to it and allow my mind to be free of negativity, I can do anything. When you strip yourself of the impossibilities you attach to your life, you will become invincible.