School Days, School Days

Lughnasa, the Labor Day Moon and Mars

Sunday gratefuls: Gary’s quick steaks. Peas. Rice. Bacon. The Moon and Mars, a target for three launches last month. The heat, followed by snow. The sturdiness of Shadow Mountain. The beauty of the lodgepoles on Black Mountain and the ponds of paler green Aspen groves. Zoombies. Solar panels delivering energy from the sun.

Labor Day tomorrow. School starts. Memorial day. School ends. That was the rule for all of my hometown school days. That Ruth and Gabe, Jon, start their school in August, mid-August at that, seems wrong to me. Like a violation of freedom. Silly, I know, but 12 years in the Alexandria school system rises up each Denver and Aurora school year.

I was glad when my time in that system was over.

The madras sport coat I had to have for college. I read Gentleman’s Quarterly that summer. A blue blazer, too, and charcoal wool slacks. Oxford cloth dress shirts. Outfitting myself for a new life, that of a young scholar.

A bitter-sweet time. Mom had died the previous October. Dad and I had been fighting off and on, something that would continue until the complete rupture three years later. College as a refuge from grief, from family struggles. Yes.

But also a dream, entering finally into the world of critical thinking, of a liberal arts education. What I wanted. Not sure when exactly, but early, maybe before high school, the liberal arts ideal became my own.

Study broadly. Choose a discipline. Study that in depth. Do original research, contribute to the deposit of human knowledge. Be part of gathering a better knowledge of our world.

Wabash had the liberal arts at its core, not like the big universities I chose not to attend. That first semester I took C.C.-contemporary civilizations-introduction to philosophy, English, German. The next semester, my last at Wabash, I added symbolic logic and dropped German.

In that year I became an existentialist, a committed philosophy student, and an even more committed advocate of the liberal arts education.

It pains me to see higher education in so much trouble here in the U.S. The waning of the liberal arts pains me even more. I get it. College is so expensive no one wants to waste their time on nonremunerative disciplines. Like philosophy. Or, anthropology, my two college majors. Or, astrophysics and physics, Joseph’s two college majors.

The deeply uncritical stance of our orange guy and his gang of some 40% of the U.S. population makes me feel even further committed to critical thinking, a broad education in addition to an in depth one, and to higher education as a whole.

Here’s the rub as I see it. Higher education is good for about 5% of the population. The rest deserve a quality education beyond high school, no doubt, but it should be in more directly vocational disciplines. Not less than, different. To each according to their ability.

See in you September should apply to all who want to have a decent life and the tools with which to build one.

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