Transcendentalism essential essays of emerson and thoreau teacher copy

Self-Reliance , Ralph Waldo Emerson. Walden , Henry David Thoreau.

Transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

The Brothers , Louisa May Alcott. The Artist of the Beautiful , Nathaniel Hawthorne. Old Poets , Walt Whitman. Thanatopsis , William Cullen Bryant.

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The etymology of the word "Transcendental" draws from the principles of the German philosopher, Kant, who embraced intuitive and spiritual above empirical and material. Here's another important word to understand: "Romanticism" is from the Latin word "romant" which means "in the Roman manner. While the Romantic Movement began in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, it migrated to America in the early 19th century.

American Romanticism authors were most prolific between Within the genre of Romanticism , two opposing sub-genres emerged: the optimists who believed in human goodness and spirituality, grew in to the Transcendentalism Movement. The pessimists, who embraced human fallibility and our predisposition towards sin, grew into the Dark Romanticism Movement.

Writers connected to the Transcendental Movement trusted themselves to be their own authority, understood matters well beyond what we can touch, see, hear, taste, and feel. This was an inherently American idea, born in Massachusetts by the group known as The Transcendental Club in the early-to-mid 19th century. Founders of the Movement created utopian communes in the 's, including Brook Farm and Fruitlands.

I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Describe the philosophy of Transcendentalism and provide examples of its expression in American literature. Discuss how Transcendentalism broke free of European traditions including Naturalism and Romanticism in literature to create a form of expression uniquely American. How did Abraham Lincoln 's rise to power and eloquent words compliment Transcendentalism? Explain how Henry David Thoreau 's first line from his essay, On Civil Disobedience exemplifies Transcendentalism: "I heartily accept the motto, -- "That government is best which governs least.

Scientific rationality and conventional religious practice runs completely counter to Transcendentalism. Use our Song of Myself - Study Guide as a reference. Essay Prompt : Doesn't this all seem a bit self-absorbing? Explain your personal philosophy and what elements of Transcendentalism you might embrace, those you reject. He later said that Harvard taught all the branches of learning but none of the roots Albee 31 , and he noted in Walden that he had been enrolled in a course in "Navigation" that was so removed from the concrete realities that he wasn't even aware of having taken it.

So in the fall of Thoreau applied to teach in Canton, a town south of Boston, where he was interviewed by the young minister, Orestes Brownson, who was on the verge of fame as a fiery transcendentalist with his New Views of Christianity and the Church to be published the next year. Little is known of this first teaching episode, except that whatever Thoreau's experience with his seventy students he was not discouraged from teaching as a future career. And whatever he learned about education, his development was probably fostered more by his study of German and his conversations with Brownson, the very model of an intellectual activist who, like Karl Marx, wanted to change the world, not just understand it.

After graduating from Harvard College in the summer of , Thoreau, now twenty, began his shortest and most notorious teaching stint. In that year of financial panic he was fortunate enough to land a position in his native Concord as the teacher at the Center School, the main public college preparatory school. This post was traditionally offered to a recent Harvard graduate, but Thoreau, unlike many of his predecessors, was not just biding his time en route to becoming a lawyer or minister. Dick O'Connor, who has most thoroughly studied Thoreau's brief tenure here, writes that he "had some ideas of his own about teaching that he was eager to put into practice.


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He fully intended to stay in teaching for several years, perhaps-after a year of public school experience and self-directed study-taking a position in a private academy" But during his first few days, Thoreau was visited by Nehemiah Ball, one of the three members of the school committee. Ball found the activity and noise level of the classroom too high and instructed the young teacher to use corporal punishment more often.

Stung by the criticism, Thoreau applied the ferule a stick for rapping on the hand rather than a cowhide strip for flogging, which the school did not have to six students, some chosen at random, some punished for minor infractions. That evening he turned in his resignation. This act of uncivil obedience, like much of Thoreau's experience, was not as memorable or original in itself Bronson Alcott had preceded him both in criticizing corporal punishment and in not paying his poll tax as his later verbal formulation of it; in seeking a new teaching job, he wrote to Brownson: "I have even been disposed to regard the cowhide as a nonconductor.

Methinks that, unlike the electric wire, not a single spark of truth is ever transmitted through its agency to the slumbering intellect it would address" 30 December , Correspondence. But more significant than this negative critique is his positive vision of schooling in the same letter:. I would make education a pleasant thing both to the teacher and the scholar. This discipline, which we allow to be the end of life, should not be one thing in the schoolroom, and another in the street. We should seek to be fellow students with the pupil, and should learn of, as well as with him, if we would be most helpful to him.

But I am not blind to the difficulties of the case; it supposes a degree of freedom which rarely exists. It hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive the full import of that word-Freedom-not a paltry Republican freedom, with a posse comitatus at his heels to administer it in doses as to a sick child-but a freedom proportionate to the dignity of his nature-a freedom that shall make him feel that he is a man among men, and responsible only to that Reason of which he is a particle, for his thoughts and his actions.

Instead of any disillusionment with teaching, Thoreau articulates an inspiriting vision that he was to apply to the rest of his educational work. It is a remarkable epitome of the values inherent in the tradition of the active mind mentioned above, having particular affinities with the thought of its most central figure, John Dewey. Like Dewey, Thoreau chooses to see education not simply as a means, a preparation for something else, but as intrinsically valuable. Both men assert a fundamental continuity between the schoolroom and the street, between the process of learning and the rest of experience.

And both seek to go beyond the conventional dichotomy of teacher and student, suggesting that the teacher can learn with and from the student. In other words, education should not simply transmit an existing culture but creatively reconstruct it. Most centrally, both Thoreau and Dewey see education as crucial to democracy and viceversa; for democracy to be a living philosophy, it cannot occur only on election day but in every act of building a true community.

Soon after writing this remarkable letter, Thoreau made for himself the opportunity to embody these ideas in practice. After almost a year of unsuccessfully pursuing leads for other teaching positions, he decided to open his own school in June It began modestly in the family home with only four students. When Concord Academy, the private college preparatory school he had attended himself, looked as if it would fold, he was able to rent the building and take over the name.

By the next winter the school had enrolled enough students that Henry was able to bring in as a second teacher his older brother, John, who had been teaching on his own in Roxbury. Although the brothers retained most features of conventional schooling, they supplemented these with a number of activities that moved education beyond the walls of the classrooms.

There were frequent field trips, and not just to fields for nature study. The students were taken to the offices of a local paper to watch typesetting and to a gunsmith to watch the regulating of gunsights. In the spring, each student had a small plot of ploughed land to plant.

Transcendentalism: Essential Essays of Emerson & Thoreau by Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the fall of Henry brought in surveying instruments to teach his students yet another kind of field work in organizing a survey of Fairhaven Hill. But rather than just listing activities, we can get a better sense of Thoreau's teaching by following him through an entire sequence.

This account of a river trip was reported by F. Sanborn, one of Thoreau's early biographers, who himself later ran a progressive school in Concord: Henry Thoreau called attention to a spot on the river-shore, where he fancied the Indians had made their fires, and perhaps had a fishing village. Then, moving inland a little farther, and looking carefully about, he struck his spade several times, without result. Presently, when the boys began to think their young teacher and guide was mistaken, his spade struck a stone. Moving forward a foot or two, he set his spade in again, struck another stone, and began to dig in a circle.

Mr. Emerson's Revolution

He soon uncovered the red, fire-marked stones of the long-disused Indian fireplace; thus proving that he had been right in his conjecture. Having settled the point, he carefully covered up his find and replaced the turf,--not wishing to have the domestic altar of the aborigines profaned by mere curiosity. Sanborn Here Thoreau helps his students read the natural landscape as carefully and closely as a page of Cicero.

They are asked to not merely appreciate its beauty but to make logical inferences about its possible relations to the human world, to formulate hypotheses and test those hypotheses through further activity.

His own actions model an intellectual curiosity about the immediate world we move through, a willingness to take the risk of being proven wrong, and a respect for the past and other cultures. He enacts and embodies these qualities, modeling instead of preaching them. On April 1, , the brothers closed their school because of John's failing health from tuberculosis, the disease from which Henry was eventually to die also.

Later, Henry tutored Emerson's nephew on Staten Island for a few homesick months in And informally he was a wonderful teacher to many of the children around him, as documented in detail by two of them, Edward Emerson in Henry Thoreau as Remembered by a Young Friend and Louise May Alcott in Little Men, where he is fictionalized as Mr. But he was never to be a classroom teacher again. On the positive side he wanted to devote all his energies to his writing.

But on the negative side, he had a deep, underlying suspicion of the whole activity of formal education. In his journal he writes: "How vain it is to teach youth, or anybody, truths! They can only learn them after their own fashion, and when they get ready" 31 December , Journal. Thoreau's subsequent involvement with education, then, was primarily as a writer. He did not write a separate single work on the subject, but, as appropriate to one who saw education as continuous with all experience, his insights are found throughout the body of his work, most richly in Walden and the journal.


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In collecting these thoughts on education in one place, this volume reveals the actual power and convergence of Thoreau's educational vision. While some of these passages do indeed contradict others--and it has often been noted that self-contradiction is part of the transcendentalist stance toward immediate honesty and complexity--we can see both the negative comments about existing schools and the envisioning of a positive education as two sides of the same viewpoint. It is a viewpoint that comes into sharper focus against the matrix of thought already referred to as the tradition of the active mind.

The first figure chronologically in this tradition is Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May and the three other little women. In he opened in Boston with Elizabeth Peabody, the Temple School, which embodied and anticipated what many educators now believe about the best ways to teach. Instead of rote memorization and recitation from textbooks, the children were asked to shape and share their own thoughts in both journals and class discussions.

The education was what we would now call "holistic," since skills like spelling, grammar, and vocabulary were integrated into larger lessons on ethical and spiritual matters.

Essential Questions

Alcott's conduct of the classroom and the discussions was sometimes unconsciously manipulative, but he was also much of the time a good listener and a provocative questioner. Although was he not as good a writer as a teacher-his writings tend to be vaporously abstract, ironically violating his own best teaching practices-we are fortunate in having descriptions and transcripts of the school preserved by Elizabeth Peabody in Record of a School and later in Conversations with the Children on the Gospels , which appeared under Alcott's own name. One sequence in particular shows the strength of his methods:.

Alcott then recurred to the blackboard and said he would read the scale. This diagram had been altered many times during the quarter. It was intended to systematize the conversations in a degree; and never was presented to the children as a complete map of the mind. Some have objected to these diagrams, as if they would be fetters on the minds of the children. But their constant renewal and changes preclude the possibility of their being regarded as any thing but what they are. After having read the scale through, he began at the end asking the meaning of each word, and as they were defined, he obliterated them, until all were gone.

Record The scale or diagram, then, is offered not as a self-contained external truth but as a tool to help the students probe, order, and articulate their own experiences. The scheme is offered as hypothetical, provisional, subject to revision.