Passing a class is not the same as learning from a class.
Whoa, right? Duh. We all know that.
The first semester of my freshman year I took an English course titled “Fun With Ancient Rhetoric!”–the exclamation point was included.
We talked about Cicero, Marc Antony’s famous Hearts speech, Plato and other shit that was the antithesis of fun. There was a lot of crying, wailing and gnashing of the teeth that semester. By the hand of God and a well-timed study group, I ended up wading through that material and ending the class with an A. Talent, I thought, but in reality the professor was old and basically gave everyone an “A for Effort.”
I didn’t realize that though. I thought I was brilliant, unconquerable, bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus. My western civilization course taught me that I was wrong.
I didn’t get the old writing, didn’t totally understand its importance. Yes, I had been impressed by the fact that these ancient rhetoricians gained respect and high positions in government based purely on their persuasive speech. It could have been a wink and a gun or a disarming smile and Cary Grant good looks. It could have been anything, it just had to work.
If you were a sensationalist, you got the results (ie: KILL CAESAR); if you were rational, you got it all (ie: YAY MARC ANTONY, yadda yadda yadda–we’re easily convinced in times of crisis).
The point is, what is it that you are hearing and seeing, and what reactions does it incite in you? Why?
Once again, it’s the whole “This is water – liberal arts educations aren’t teaching what to think but how to think in a more considerate way”- Be awake, be aware- thing.
And I have to be honest, I understand the point but sometimes I don’t have the time. Actually, throughout the school year I rarely had the time to do more than skim through the assigned texts.
My summer reading is devoted to making the time and working to understand it all. Starting with World War II, the “tragedy of reason.”
What is the point of scientific development if it can only teach destruction?
What is the point of logic if it can help someone justify mass extermination?
Starting with John Keegan’s The Battle For History, progressing to Mein Kampf, ending with Profiles in Courage because I’ve got time and I have to actually earn that A, even if it is in retrospect.