Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why Did You Make Us Do That?

The angst and annoyance is thick in the air this time of year. “Why did you make us read books over the summer?” the students complain. Enough already.

Every year, as we start school, I wonder if requiring students to read books over the summer really works as it should. I see students struggling during the first days to quickly read the assignments ahead of the tests that come on the second, third, fourth days of classes. Do they really get anything out of such lightning speed reading? Then I see the teachers, freshly arrived in their newly painted classrooms, already facing stacks of student papers to grade. My colleagues do not give tests until at least the end of the first week. I, however, have four sets of essays to grade by the third day of school. How effective is running through a book in just a day or two of class? What books could we select that students would be motivated to read on their own, yet also be considered important works for college preparation? Wouldn’t it be better to just draw the line between vacation and the new school year, begin with a book on day one of school, and teach it as we do with all the other books in the curriculum?

I hate the idea of students being assigned reading over the summer. To me, reading in the summer should be strictly for a person’s own enjoyment. I want to follow my own whims and desires with summer reading; I want to pursue my own course. That is me, the English teacher. I also do not want to “throw away” a book on a summer assignment with only one or two days of class time to discuss it followed by a test. The books I pick for my students to read are deep and important. They require study, discussion, the need to wrestle with the ideas in a classroom. To give a book one class period and a test seems superficial and ridiculous.

In my perfect world, students would read voraciously on their own over the summer holiday. They would read trashy beach books, romances, mysteries, celebrity biographies, and even some classic tomes that their friends recommended to them. We would all come back in the fall ready to work on the course curriculum having read what we wanted to read all summer.

Yeah, wake up and smell the coffee.

Teenagers inhabit a culture that is moving further and further away from reading for enjoyment. My students are likely to read something on the Internet, but without an assignment, few would pick up a book. And I teach honors courses.

In the elementary grades, kids seem more into reading. If nothing else, the Harry Potter phenomenon proved this. Here were students hefting books that weighed the equivalent of a cinderblock and poring over them for twenty-four, thirty-six, or whatever hours it took to finish reading. There was a thrill and passion for Rowling’s words that educators do not see very often. And the same thing happened with the Twilight series. This reading led kids to look for similar books, and the wave was in motion.

High school kids fail to fully catch the wave. Many of my students are passionate about Potter and the rest, but on the whole, I did not see the fiery splash of reading turn into a raging inferno. Those who love reading continued to love reading post-Potter. Those that liked that series, slipped away after the end pages to email and Facebook, and maybe, when the new Potter or Twilight came out, they might consider returning, unless they had grown out of the mania by then.

I know that most high school kids will not read on their own during the summer. I have students who come back in the fall and ask to be excused from the summer reading assignment because they were on vacation somewhere. “What?” I ask them. “Did you have no leisure time on the holiday? You took a flight. What did you do all those hours in the plane? Couldn’t you have read? What about on the beach?”

They were watching movies on their DVD player on the plane. They were swimming at the beach. And they were too busy running around to sit still and give attention to a book.

These same kids, in a few short years will be moaning about low SAT scores and rejection letters from colleges and universities. Their parents will be blaming teachers and the school for the poor performance of their children. I give 120 percent every day for 180 school days year after year. I strong-arm and cajole students into reading novels, poems, plays, short stories and nonfiction every day in the classroom and at home each night.

I also assign them books to read over the summer. Quit your crying, children. If you were doing what you should—reading fun books that you enjoy over the summer—the assignment would not be necessary.

Remember, I hate this too, but for far different reasons. I do not want to rush through important works of literature. I do not want to consign great writers to a chore to be accomplished. And I really could not care less what you do over the summer, as long as you are safe. Summer is my time for reading, writing, thinking, and reflection.

But you leave me no other choice. Until my students are well-read and prepared for college, until they are driven to read through self-motivation, unless books become preferred entertainment over computer games and surfing the Internet, I will not relent. Summer reading will continue to be assigned. It is not the best method, it is not a preferable teaching strategy, and it might even be the worst thing teachers could do to students’ view of literature, but it is the only choice we have to keep kids reading over the summer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

I am rewriting my syllabus. Top to bottom, a whole, new, fresh look.

A syllabus is a document that exists as a contract between teacher and student. Therefore, it is filled with jargon and disclaimers, laying the ground work for the class so that the policies and procedures are airtight.

So you know that a syllabus is always a gripping read!

Therein lies the problem. I do not want to write some picture-perfect syllabus that puts people to sleep. I want my students to really read the thing and understand what I want from them and the class. I want to write it in regular language, like a letter to a friend.

I dispensed with the course description. Who needs it? If the kids don’t know what the course is all about, they have been living in a cave somewhere. It’s English class.

I also got rid of the state standards. Old version: Analyze the way in which clarity of meaning is affected by the patterns of organization, hierarchical structures, repetition of main ideas, syntax, and word choice in the text. New version: students will learn to read critically, looking for the deeper meaning in a work of literature. Still a little jargonesque, but better.

The new and improved document will be organized by questions: Why should you take this course? What are the goals of this course? What is expected of you as a student in this class? And finally, how is your grade determined? Direct and to the point, three pages and out.

In addition to rewriting all my syllabi, I reworked the entire curriculum. The schedule is tight. The classes are all honors and Advanced Placement, so the students expect to be challenged. When I finished planning everything out, I realized that we will be spending two weeks, at most three, on some major works of literature. There is no room for free periods; no space to postpone due dates and test days. It’s go, go, go until June, with papers and reading assigned even over holiday breaks.

We need to use every minute because the challenges are mountainous and we need to cover a lot of ground. I want them to be prepared for the AP exams in May as well as for SAT tests throughout junior and senior year.

Is this different from previous years?

Not really. My goal this year is to keep the energy up for 180 days—until the job is done and summer has come again. I cannot let up. I owe my students that, even though they would probably tell me to take it easy.

To get up in front of a class, five days a week, five or six periods a day, and teach, is the most exhausting thing I have ever done. The worst job I ever had was unloading sacks of manure at a Target store in the lawn and garden department. It was back-breaking work, and the smell never left me. It was embedded in my nostrils, and even when I scrubbed and bleached and scraped, I still thought I could smell the stench in my clothes and on my person. I lasted six months. I was saved by a major case of viral pneumonia. I was never so thankful for a 104 degree fever.

Teaching does not make you smell. My muscles are not sore at the end of the day. But it is hard work. I must be mentally sharp, focused, intense, and I must provoke these attitudes in teenagers. I must motivate them to learn, to pay attention, to read, to ask questions, and most important, find the answers. I sometimes wish I had the job in the cubicle—come in, do the work, and go home when the whistle blows, like Fred Flintstone.

I love my job, but it can be grueling. It is not a job you leave at work when the day is done. I put in four or more hours at my desk each night. And still I am slow getting papers back to kids. I am literally reading all the time—writing notes in the margins, giving critical comments, and trying to be encouraging even when there is not much there on the page about which to feel good.

This year, it will be different. I will read faster. I will keep the energy going. I will inspire, motivate, facilitate, encourage. I will teach like crazy.

I will manage my department, be there for my teachers, and push them to be better educators.

More and more, I believe that the battle for our cultural survival, indeed the health of our country, depends on the education system. There are many important jobs in this world, but I know that mine is detrimental to the future, as cliché as that sounds.

So here we go. I will teach Romeo and Juliet, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Dante’s Inferno for what feels like the hundredth time. I will grade student writing, conference with parents, and try to get it right for every student in my class.

Here in the dog days of summer, I am thinking of winter, when it is cold and dark and all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the covers over my face and hide out until spring. That is when I will need the strength and energy to keep going, to keep pushing my students to do better.

It is time to get cracking again. It’s almost September again.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives
By David Eagleman
Pantheon Books; $20.00, cloth
ISBN 978-0-307-37734-0

According to A Handbook To Literature, by William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, a “novel is used in its broadest sense to designate any extended fictional narrative almost always in prose.”

The definition is vague and open-ended. With experimental fiction, novels can be word pictographs, written in verse, contain different typefaces, offer a single word on a page, be composed in computer language, email, tweets, and be filled with intentional misspellings and grammatical errors. Novels can look nothing like what Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote.

Novels do not even have to tell a linear story. In fact, the story can disappear altogether. We are left with scenes, sometimes variations on a single scene, repeated over and over again, revealing a hidden truth about human existence. Examples of novels structured this way include Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, where Marco Polo recounts the many cities he has visited to the Tartan emperor Kublai Khan, and Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams, a collection of meditations on the nature of time.

We can add to that kind of novel David Eagleman’s volume, Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives. In his writing, Eagleman echoes Lightman’s work. The language and style offer a number of similarities, but Lightman manages to reveal truths and insights about human existence whereas Eagleman falls short of this mark.

We all want to know where we go when we die. Shakespeare called it the “undiscovered country” from which no one returns. Religion codifies it for us, if one is a believer: heaven, hell, purgatory, Hades, the fields of Elysium, Avalon, Paradise, and the idea of no afterlife at all but reincarnation.

Eagleman focuses each of his chapters on a specific scene in the afterlife, like set pieces in play. They contain details that are clever, but reveal little of the truth of human life.

The chapter “Circle of Friends,” describes an afterlife where everything looks the same as it did in life and one is surrounded only by what he knows. As a result of this, there are no strangers here, no chance encounters with interesting people. There is just the pedestrian world of the familiar.

In another section, “Perpetuity,” God is just like us. And heaven is a suburban community where all saints and good people are strangely absent. Only the sinners are here. This is a subject for speculation among the inhabitants. It turns out that God and the sinners are alike—God “spends most of His time in pursuit of happiness. He reads books, strives for self-improvement, seeks activities to stave off boredom, tries to keep in touch with fading friendships, wonders if there’s something else He should be doing with His time.”

This view of the afterlife simply goes nowhere. It is not deep, profound, or even amusing. God purposely imprisons man in the afterlife with him because he envies our brief moment of existence.

Books that are clever, profess to be deep without much depth, and offer cuteness over thoughtful inquiry are irritating, not enlightening. Writers like David Sedaris, the late Frank McCourt, and Mark Twain, make us laugh out loud while also pointing out the foibles and follies of human beings. Alan Lightman, Isaac Asimov, and Annie Dillard can use science and nature to tell us profound things, intrigue us enough to wrap our brains around ideas about what it means to be alive. Unfortunately, David Eagleman misses the mark in his book, and therefore does not belong in the same league as the others. In the end, Sum is the totality of very little.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nobility of Spirit

Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal
By Rob Riemen
Yale University Press; $22.00, cloth
ISBN 978-0-300-13690-6

Poet Charles Simic, in his essay “Reading Philosophy At Night,” discusses the magic of sinking into a world of ideas, losing sense of time and self, fully engaged in a discussion with the ancients.

“I sat and read late into the night,” he writes. “The quieter it got, the more clearheaded I became—or so it seemed to me.” He sees his reading of great minds and ideas as a sort of dialogue across the span of time. “Whoever reads philosophy reads himself as much as he reads the philosopher. I am in dialogue with certain decisive events in my life as much as I am with the ideas on the page.”

Rob Riemen, in his small volume Nobility of Spirit: The Forgotten Ideal, celebrates and reveres such quiet conversations with philosophers, writers, thinkers. He wants to move the idea of nobilitas literaria, a nobility derived not through birth and privilege, but through education, back to the forefront of contemporary culture. Through a discussion of ideas, literature, history, and philosophy, human beings can realize their nobility through consideration of what it means to be alive, to be present, to think.

Riemen is the founder of the Nexus Institute, an organization devoted to intellectual reflection and to inspiring Western cultural and philosophical debate.

His book, divided into four parts, examines questions of art, literature, culture, intellectualism, and death.

He begins with the first of several important conversations described in the book. Riemen finds inspiration in the work of Thomas Mann, and so he eagerly anticipates his trip to New York because he has a dinner date set up with Elisabeth Mann Borghese, the late writer’s daughter. Borghese’s work for environmental issues, for world peace, makes her, in Riemen’s words, the “true embodiment of the twentieth century.”

At the dinner, Riemen finds that Borghese has brought along a guest, an eccentric composer and philosopher named Joseph Goodman, who is writing a symphonic composition set to the poetry of Walt Whitman. In the ensuing discussion, the three discuss Whitman, the American ideals of freedom and liberty, and the nobility of the spirit, a phrase taken from a book of Thomas Mann’s essays.

“Nobility of the spirit is the great ideal!” Goodman says. “It is the realization of true freedom, and there can be no democracy, no free world, without this moral foundation.”

Goodman leaves a lasting impression on Riemen, and when he discovers later that he has died, he contemplates how to continue his work. Again, Borghese acts as a catalyst for Riemen. Her father believed nobility of the spirit was the “sole corrective for human history.” Using this thesis, and drawing on a wealth of literary, historical, and philosophical works, Riemen begins writing his book.

The first essay is an in-depth analysis of Thomas Mann and his quest for truth, art and beauty in an age of nihilism and emptiness. He compares Mann’s search to the Holy Grail, and indeed to all quests: what is the meaning of our existence? What should we do with our lives? How can we be true to ourselves and maintain our human dignity? He draws on classical humanism, and believes that only by returning to such ideals and ignoring the superficiality and materialism of contemporary culture can we rediscover our own nobility.

“Truth, for example, is not a relative, subjective concept to be dealt with at one’s own discretion,” Riemen writes. “Truth is the absolute standard by which the level of human dignity is to be measured.”

Human beings need to understand what he calls the enigma of human life: “On the one hand, there is human nature, that which is mortal and which all too often is the source of the tragedy of life…On the other hand, thanks to the spiritual abilities of human beings, each person knows the absolute, knows the immortal values that everyone must try to realize…”

Mann and Riemen believe fervently that only art, beauty, and stories “can free the human souls from fear and hatred and thereby guide the individual further along on the journey through life.”

The second essay delves into the conversation between Socrates and his followers, including a young Plato. Riemen believes that the message of Socrates is applicable today. Human dignity is an imperative in a just society where “wisdom, bravery, and moderation…reign.”

From here, Riemen launches a discussion of September 11, and makes the point that living in a civilized society means that no violence is necessary to create change. Therefore, “Anyone who still uses violence to accomplish political ends excludes himself or herself from dialogue and is uncivilized.” So when intellectuals argue that the events of that day in 2001 were the result of years of brutal treatment by the U.S. government of the countries of the Middle East, or that the towers themselves were symbols of American greed and capitalism, they are wrong. Fundamentalists of whatever stripe want to stamp out those who think differently, or have different culture and values. The attacks were the product of hatred, pure and simple, the basest of human emotions.

Riemen takes a swipe at people like Susan Sontag and Norman Mailer who misused language in their analysis of the attacks. The perpetrators are not brave, nor is it acceptable to blame the thousands of victims. “The question remains,” Riemen writes. “How courageous can you really be when you do not even know that you are collaborating in your own death? How courageous are you when you have nothing to lose because divine paradise awaits you? And why should someone be admired when it is unbridled hatred that drives him to destroy as many lives as possible? How ‘accurate’ is the word ‘admire’ in this case? Moreover, according to some language purists, the firefighters who ran into the inferno in New York out of a sense of duty in a final attempt to save human life may not be called ‘heroes.’ They were ‘naïve,’ we are told.”

The intellectuals who tried to reason away the hijackers’ acts are guilty of validating mass murder, Riemen asserts. But such writing and thinking is prevalent throughout the twentieth century. One need only examine some of the views of intellectuals during the Second World War when millions of people were murdered in concentration camps to see the obvious hypocrisy.

Thomas Mann, himself, faced similar guilt after publicly supporting German nationalism during the First World War. He criticized democracy, but changed his view as Hitler rose to power and the world fell into chaos.

Riemen cites Baltasar Gracian: “Man is born a barbarian; he is saved from being a beast by acquiring culture. Culture, therefore, makes the man…”

And in another literary hero, Goethe, he finds more words of comfort. Civilization and respect go hand in hand, and without such respect, without the nobility of the individual, we are indeed lost.

Where are we today? Riemen tells us not to look for nobility of the spirit in the media, or in politics. Philosophers must become kings, or our leaders must return to the sacredness of philosophical ideals to recover our lost nobility.

In the essay, Be Brave, Riemen offers his final analysis. Doubt, he says, is a valuable state, one advocated by Socrates. Ancient Athens, like the world today, was filled with uncertainty, but doubt makes people reconsider their beliefs, their bedrock culture, “what is and is not important…what people should do with their lives.”

So our primary goal is to find the truth. The truth will help us preserve the liberty we need to survive and flourish. “Culture cannot exist where there is no freedom,” Riemen concludes. “But where culture is banished, freedom is meaningless, and all that remains is arbitrary and trivial.” In a culture obsessed with celebrity and materialism, this is heady stuff and not easy reading. Riemen gives us much to absorb here in this book, so many words and phrases that leap out and demand consideration and contemplation.

In these dangerous times when culture and deep thinking are imperiled, Rob Riemen tells us to be brave. We must strive to be better than we are, and we must recognize the nobility of the individual in the soaring spirit of human existence. Only then can we recover what has been lost.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Education's End

Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life
By Anthony T. Kronman
Yale University Press; $17.00, paper
ISBN 978-0-300-14314-0

Anthony T. Kronman begins and ends his examination of why our colleges and universities have given up on the meaning of life with the personal.

At the beginning, he is a student at Williams College when he takes a seminar entitled “Existentialism.” “At the heart of the seminar,” he writes, “was the question of how best to live, of what to care about and why, the question of the meaning of life.” In this class, he discovers that a life’s purpose could be studied in school.

At the conclusion of Education’s End, he explains the Yale Directed Studies program where he now teaches students what he has spent a lifetime learning: “At the heart of the program is the question of what living is for.”

Between these two points, Kronman argues with meticulous, if repetitive diligence that our schools and colleges have run away from this question, especially in the humanities, an area that naturally lends itself to such questioning. This has led to a decline in interest, and a belittling of the importance, of the question of life’s meaning and purpose.

Kronman learns early on in his educational life that one cannot stand on the sidelines and watch the action. “It is necessary to enter the fray and become a participant in the great contests of life,” he writes in the introduction, “or risk not having a life of any consequence at all.” So he begins his work with the thesis that questioning the meaning of life is the most important activity of a student. Kronman believes teachers should act as guides, using the curriculum of the humanities to focus the search. Therefore, Kronman believes that education is not for the purpose of finding gainful employment, or achieving a piece of paper, but for finding oneself and the meaning of life.

In the Directed Studies program at Yale, Kronman practices what he preaches. He uses the study of the great works of philosophy, history, literature and politics to help students in this search. Kronman believes we have inherited these works from the great minds of the past, and it is the teacher’s duty to pass on this body of work to the next generation of students. He includes a detailed reading list for his courses at the end of the book.

Kronman constructs his argument in a series of linked essays, the first of which is titled “What Is Living For?”

“Our lives are the most precious resource we possess,” he begins, “and the question of how to spend them is the most important question we face.” This question can only be answered by the individual. Of course, the individual needs a teacher, and those kinds of teachers are in short supply. In fact, Kronman cites only two: Jesus and Socrates, both of whom kept the question at the center of their teaching.

Although the question is a personal one, it is necessary to see the whole picture to determine our place in it. Kronman relates this inquiry to writing a biography. A biographer must know the whole of the subject’s life, the history and events of his time, the personal triumphs and tragedy, the work that the subject created at the time. It is not enough to know only when the subject was born and when he died with a few facts in between. Totality of the study is most important.

The same idea should be followed in a study of life’s purpose. Kronman says that, “When we are asked what something in our lives is for—an activity, a relationship, or a project of some sort—we generally answer by pointing out its connection to something else.” These connections run the gamut of human experience from minor events to those of epic importance, but they all come together to create the whole person. So the question of what life means is connected to other areas of life, part of the fabric of being.

In the second essay, Kronman reintroduces a concept going back to ancient Greece, a familiar refrain when talking about college courses like Great Books, Yale’s Directed Study, and Harvard’s General Education programs. Secular humanism is key to a student’s search for life’s meaning. A study of this kind should give students a look at all kinds of human thinking across the centuries, while giving them a general knowledge about their own place in this world. All of this should “prepare them to meet the personal, ethical, and social challenges of life, regardless of the career they eventually choose.”

Many colleges and universities have decreased or even eliminated such course offerings. There are few organized programs like the one Kronman teaches in at Yale, and he thinks he knows why. “Today, many of those teaching in liberal arts programs,” he writes, “feel uncomfortable asserting the competence or authority to lead their students in an organized inquiry of this sort.” He goes on to say that this has led to the view that since questions regarding life’s meaning cannot be answered concretely, they also cannot be studied in school.

I see evidence of this even on the high school level. Students show no interest, and sometimes even become hostile, when I suggest that education is to make someone a better person, or when we engage in a discussion where there is no clearly defined answer. They want to know what is on the test. If it is not on the test, why must they learn it? I argue that this is a shortsighted and intellectually crippling notion, but it is encouraged by American culture. We want to cut to the chase.

Students argue that they cannot afford the luxury of taking classes to make them well-rounded. Tuition costs are so exorbitant that they need to get the courses they need to graduate. Prolonging graduation, even for a semester, means thousands of dollars of debt. Kronman admits as much when he writes that “To have the freedom to pursue this question for a period of time in early adulthood is a great luxury.”

The research ideal upon which most educational pursuits are based today, also prohibits this education for the sake of education mentality. Professors and students are focused on narrow areas of specialization within a subject, rather than on the broad connections among areas of curriculum.

Kronman says that the history of university education can be divided up into phases. The first phase began with the founding of Harvard in 1636 and is called “the age of piety.” Colleges were founded for religious study, a focus on the “ends of human living.”

The second phase takes place after the Civil War, “the antebellum college,” as Kronman asserts, and this is considered the “age of secular humanism.” The teacher in the antebellum college is the moral and intellectual authority. They are “generalists,” teaching without divisions and departments, with a set curriculum where everyone reads the same books in the same sequence. The curriculum holds a sacred position, and is not questioned.

The third phase is the one we find ourselves in today. This is the research university model, transported here from German universities. The first duty of a research scholar is to research and write papers about specific subject areas. Teaching is secondary. In the quest for furthering the knowledge in a given subject, all knowledge becomes changeable and subject to question. There are no longer bedrock texts to draw from because everything is subject to scrutiny.

Is this a bad or good thing? Although it is good to re-examine philosophies and ideas, great books and their themes, Kronman believes the negativity rests in political correctness. He asserts that in our rush to diversity and equality, we have been forced to consider other works because they come from under-represented cultures, not necessarily because they offer quality writing and thinking. He deplores constructivism that “affirmed the artificiality of all human values and the absence of standards by which to judge them.” American colleges and universities focus on race and gender at the expense of quality and tradition. Many of the works dismissed from the canon have been studied for centuries. Teachers toss them out of the classroom door in favor of more recent, multicultural literature that lacks the history, insight, thematic depth, and exploration of the human experience found in the established canonical works. The so-called “dead white males” do not denote a power resting solely with western European culture, but offer centuries of thought and consideration packed into benchmark texts. These works have stood the test of time. Would someone like Shakespeare be so popular if his greatness did not transcend his European roots?

The research ideal violates Kronman’s metaphor of the biography. We must study the whole, he believes, not just a part, because it is in connections and relationships that we find complete understanding. He argues that some knowledge has been gained with research, but only in highly specialized areas, not on a broader level across disciplines.

In our desire for political correctness, we have diversified the power and effectiveness out of the canon and lost important themes and ideals. Therefore, our toolbox is severely limited when we search for the meaning of life. In fact, we have given up the search in favor of minutiae and specialized knowledge that cripples our ability to understand ourselves and human existence in total.

Kronman does see a glimmer of hope, first because of the “rising tide of religious fundamentalism,” which has increased spiritual awareness in our culture. Second, our culture’s preoccupation with political correctness has waned, leading to a decreased interest in diversity of texts and a return to a more traditional reading list in the academies. Third, the human need to understand life’s purpose and meaning has experienced a resurgence. In our culture of excess, Kronman believes that people are feeling less satisfaction with the material and are searching for the deeper meaning in existence.

Kronman believes that, instead of offering easy, pat answers, a return to secular humanism and a search for life’s meaning in a disciplined study should disrupt the confidence of students and deepen their doubts. It should make us rethink our convictions and ask the important questions. But the system is all wrong. “Students…come to college believing that the most important choice they face is that of a career,” he writes. “A career is only part of life.”

To actualize Kronman’s difficult thesis, to re-vitalize education by returning the focus, especially in the humanities, to the question of life’s meaning and purpose, we must have students willing to go on the journey. They must have the time, the money, the initiative and motivation to mount such a rigorous study. Most of all, they must want to know, they must desire to understand what living means, and why we are here.