After years of discovery and pondering, I have come to the clear decision that my favorite age of life for me, and for everyone else, is in The Year Twenty-Six. We aren’t in the Mozart Syndrome era yet — 26 is the imperfect and unsafe conflation of beauty and minding and of destruction and dismay.
[Publisher’s Note: Howard Stein, Boles Blogs author and inspiration, died at age of 90 on October 14, 2012 in Stamford, Connecticut. This article now appears in print as an equalizing effort to preserve Dr. Stein’s teaching and thinking as David Boles shares this, and other works, from his private Prairie Voice archive. Howard wrote this article in the Spring of 1984 and, 30 years later, the lessons are still ripe and rich and damning.]
For those suffering the wounds of life, the university has become a hospital. For the woman in her middle forties whose husband has left her for “a young thing” after twenty-four years of marriage and four children, the university is the first thought where she may go for help.
Helen Keller — a Deaf and Blind woman who became an author and an international SuperStar against the merits of her monumental disability — is one of the most magnificent examples of the human spirit in the history of America.
I have defended the spirit of Helen Keller on this blog, and while I am a tremendous fan of her incredible mind, I’m not terribly interested in her sex life as a lesbian or not, or as the secret, fateful, lover of her teacher, Anne Sullivan’s, husband, or her role as the concubine of a local cub reporter who wrote about her early life and made her a star.
What does concern, and interest me, is the lingering slandering of her as a young child in her effort to write, at 11-years-old, a story for publication called “The Frost King” — that was too closely associated with a previously published work entitled “The Frost Fairies” — that she was accused of plagiarism that haunted and stooped her for the rest of her life.
Every plan has a hole. Every ship has a leak. Every internet session is insecure. These are the new universal writs of living in the new ancient world. I learned that lesson in an especially troubling manner that forced me, in an instant, to reassess my role in the world as a Midwestern White Man teaching at-risk minority undergraduate students at a major New York City university.
I thought the assignment was simple and universally understood. I’d used a similar teaching plan at other universities with great success; but, in reflection, I realize most of those successes were found in mainstream classrooms with well-schooled students who were taught that learning was a priority in the home.
In my new teaching role in the inner city, many of these students working on a B.A. did not come from the same font of mandatory educational opportunities. They scraped by to earn understanding. They fought for what they grasped while others around them had learning handed to them.
There was a great divide of the mind and cultural experience that I quickly had to bridge or the entire end of the semester was at risk of failing, and the blame would solely be mine as the instructor for not being able to quickly re-adjust and move the field lines to be fair to my students so they could find success.
The University of Notre Dame published an interesting study on “Event Boundaries” that cause the everyday each of us to lose track of who we are and what we were planning to do:
We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.
New research from University of Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses.
“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Radvansky explains.
“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”
Ask a random current student if he or she has read something by William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, or Mark Twain, and the answer will almost certainly be a yes— whether that “yes” is voiced with fondness, indifference, or bitterness. Ask that student’s parents or grandparents the same question, and despite generational gaps, the answer likely will not change.
The quintessential “American Dream” is one of the most pervasive and iconic themes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries — our mentors push us toward it; the media glamorizes it; poor Jay Gatsby died trying to achieve it. However, as young graduates across the nation return to their parents’ homes with diplomas in one hopeful hand, the goal of proud, self-governed homeownership seems to slip further and further away.