Man-Thinking University

Last Friday the first-year honors seminar students discussed Ralph Waldo Emerson's American Scholar address. In it Emerson calls for a new kind of academic, Man-Thinking, which he defines as a new type of thinker. This is someone who draws inspiration from direct contact with nature, who uses the mind of the past but isn't cowed by it, and who remains deeply involved in this world through active engagement. No scholarly recluse, he. You might say he's as much a brawniac as a brainiac.

So I asked the class to imagine the curriculum at Man-Thinking University, a hypothetical institution of higher learning set in some remote and heavily forested wilderness . It's a place dedicated to turning out Emersonian free thinkers and visionaries. What, for example, might the first-year seminar be like at MTU?

It's an interesting pipe dream of a question, and I've blogged about it before (Man-Texting). This year's class suggested that all students at Man-Thinking University would spend the first year designing and building a place to live. I had shown them a short film about Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, a house designed to constantly attune its inhabitants to their natural surroundings. Indeed, Wright was practically suckled with Emersonian ideas.

My class must have been struck by the film because they really took to the idea of having students design their own living spaces. Building these structures would be an Emersonian lesson in self-expression and the imposition of one's vision on matter. It would be a physical statement of one's life philosophy.

I really like this idea. The art students seemed to like it, too. Accounting majors? Not so much.

Comments

frida said…
unitarian

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