The Privilege of the Nimble Mind

The American Revolution dwarfs all other concerns now. In a few weeks I must teach the events, ideals, and people that shaped the first true democracy of our world. While enthusiastic, there is much I don't know, cannot fathom, and will undoubtedly miss this first time through the topic. 

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I'm often struck by how little I've retained from my early education, and how only now as I endeavor to teach a topic, do I truly internalize information. Age has provided me context and a better sense of time. Now that I'm older I can recognize motives and effects. As I stand before my class I sometimes wonder if they too will lose what I've worked so hard to share with them, just as I did years ago. 

Perhaps, ultimately, it doesn't matter. Children must only grow up to enjoy learning— what is learned is of far less consequence. No amount of fact, no collection of historical dates, no application of theorems will assist an adult who has had their imagination deadened and their sense of self-worth consumed by apathy. 

Liberty is the privilege of the nimble mind and receptive heart. 

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I've been enthralled with a book from 1976 entitled Liberty Book. It is the work of an illustrator of immeasurable talent named Leonard Everett Fisher. Within his introduction Fisher quotes John Adams:
"I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children the right to study painting, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."
Adams understood that the proliferation of the arts was the final stage of an educated and peaceful republic. The Athens of Pericles provided not only a respite from warfare, but a flowering of ideas and creativity that continues to shape the culture of the Western World. It was the promise of peace, a true and lasting peace that nurtured aesthetic and philosophical inquiry, which guided our forefathers into war with the British. 

I wonder now about how we honor their dream, and whether or not we are capable of the bravery required to offer our children a world of beautiful reason.

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