Thursday, October 09, 2008

Liberal Learning

One of the things I love most about home educating my children are the many opportunities it affords me to learn, learn, learn. Yesterday I half joked with Artist Son that when I graduate my last child that I am going to throw a 'graduation' party for...myself! For, truly, I have learned so much through the process of educating my children and have received the gift of a liberal education~an education which somehow eluded me through my school and college years. And it has been more than once that the thought of formally returning to higher education has flitted across my mind. How, what, and where would I want to study? Wouldn't it be wonderful to study in a formal Great Books program? Daydreams, all, for the the time being and maybe forever, but fun daydreams all the same.

So when I saw the book below, Racing Odysseus, in an Oberlin bookstore, the subtitle caught my eye:

"A college president becomes a freshman again."

Hey, this guy really did it! He went back to college! And not just any college--he entered St. John's, the iconic Great Books college in Annapolis, Maryland. And, he was clever enough to write a book about his experience.

Racing Odysseus

I am thankful that he did. This was my 'fun' read on in the car and on the plane back to Jordan last month.

I've heard a couple people suggest that Baby Boomers (of which I am at the tail-end) want to live vicariously through their own children's college experiences, remembering their own college years as the best times of their lives. Perhaps. I do remember my college days with great fondness, yea even as some of the best years of my life, but mostly for the experiences I enjoyed, the relationships I made, the personal growing I did. Unfortunately, and likely due in part to my own immaturity and lack of foresight, I do not remember my academic experiences to be very stimulating or life-forming. Pragmatic and perfunctory are adjectives which come to mind. Academics, though only a part of the college experience, is the part I think I would like a second chance at.

When Roger Martin, the author of Racing Odysseus, entered St. John's College, he was a 61 year old who had recently survived a cancer death sentence. On sabbatical from his position of college president at Randolph-Macon college, Martin attends St. Johns for one semester so that he can write a book from a student's perspective. I thoroughly enjoyed his affable and humble "confessions of a freshman" through which he thoughtfully and entertainingly wove stories of how, through a taste of a Great Books/liberal arts education, he came to to a better understanding of what it means to be human. His book makes an compelling argument for a liberal arts education, and not without touching upon some of the areas in which it has been criticized, i.e. not preparing a student for a specialized occupation. I would recommend this book to anyone who believes it is never too late to continue learning and who in fact would embrace the chance to continue their education later in life.

1 comment:

patti said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Melissa. I'm just reading the Iliad for the third time with my youngest daughter and appreciating the education I've gotten while homeschooling my kids. I can't say that I'm not looking forward to the end of those years (four years left), but not because of the work in learning, but because I want to continue in my own direction but with a lot more tools than I would have had if I had done the same 25 years ago.