What is Thoreaus value to the serious student? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:24:05
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Category: Henry David Thoreau

Type of paper: Essay

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Henry David Thoreau was a renowned essayist of the mid 19th Century. A naturalist, a poet and an analytical observer of the political and social activities of his times, Thoreaus writings have left impressions on anyone who has ever had the privilege to read his work. His collected work, Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience, is probably his most famous published writing but Thoreau wrote so much more. He wrote essays on a variety of subjects, all of which were written with a unique insight that comes across clearly to the reader. His prose and poetry are quoted among people of all walks of life, but it is within the students, that perhaps the biggest impressions are made. These impressions last a lifetime.

What does education mean in Thoreaus terms?

It is impossible to give the soldier a good education without making him a deserter.

(Direct quote from Henry David Thoreaus Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.)

Henry David Thoreau believed that education was not confined to just a school or a class room. A person could learn a great deal just from the observance of Nature and also of the people that one encounters in daily life. Each sight or sound brings forth the questions of what, where and why. Why does a storm arise without much warning, where does the source of it come, and what difference will it make to the landscape after the storm has passed.

What causes people to choose their beliefs, where does the source of those beliefs come from and why were those beliefs chosen? For a man that tended to be very reclusive at times, Thoreau did, in fact, have many friends and acquaintances. He prided himself on always keeping an open mind and therefore, accepting of new ideas or a different insight on a more common opinion. There were constant opportunities to learn in a person just paid attention and life, in itself, could be an endless education.

Who decides what is valuable in education?

Every part of nature teaches that the passing away of one life is the making room for another. The Oak dies down to the ground, leaving within its rind a rich virgin mould, which will impart a vigorous life to an infant forest. The pine leaves a sandy and sterile soil; the harder woods a strong and fruitful mould. So this constant abrasion and decay makes the soil of my future growth.

(Direct quote from Henry David Thoreaus Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.)

Thoreau constantly stated his opinion that education could not just be confined to dictated learning. He wrote this brief statement while in college at the age of nineteen and he followed its premise in every aspect of his life. He went onto become a tutor and teacher, among the many other professions of his life as well as being a writer. He taught his students not only the required courses of the time but to be an ever conscious student. Education is an individual thing and very personal and only the individual could decide what was valuable in education.

Is every moment an invitation to learning?

The incredible innocence and beneficence of Nature,-of sun and wind and rain, of summer and winter,-such health, such cheer, they afford forever! and such sympathy have they ever with our race, that all Nature would be affected and the suns brightness fade, and the winds would sign humanely, and the clouds rain tears, and the woods shed their leaves and put on mourning in midsummer, if any man for just cause grieve.

(Direct quote from Henry David Thoreaus Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.)

This made as clear a statement that no moment should be passed, even if captured in symbolic or paradoxical forms of words, to learn. Thoreau believed that the opportunity to observe, learn and grasp was constantly at hand. He drew much of his belief from his communing with Nature through his lifetime.

What kind of learning is ultimately valuable?

A simple question to answer, the kind that stays with us for all of our lives. As a young student, a wise scholar, or an average person who chooses to draw constantly upon the endless source of learning available, it is the things that we remember and find use for in our everyday living that are the most valuable.

Henry David Thoreaus meditations and observances that found form in his writings are a legacy for anyone who can value such wisdom and clear thought. He is an invaluable teaching source to any serious student.

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