On [Transcendental] Education

Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau spent years in the forest near Walden pond. His intimate musings from the forest helped cement transcendental beliefs.

Jeff Schaefer

Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau spent years in the forest near Walden pond. His intimate musings from the forest helped cement transcendental beliefs.

Zak Jones, Section Editor

Chances are you, your parents and perhaps even future generations have studied the transcendentalists. Thoreau, Whitman, Longfellow and Emerson were analyzed and their beliefs picked apart. But to what extent should these nineteenth century rebels influence our modern philosophies?

The transcendentalists were essentially the hippies of their time. They thrived in nature, snorted at conformity and blazingly “sounded their barbaric yawp.” So why follow the teachings of these dissenters? Why are their teachings unique? What paints their message gold?

On the surface, teaching kids to abhor consistency and disregard social norms stokes the flames of rebellion in already-volitile teenagers. “Emerson told me to” could potentially be a perfect excuse to skipping a homework assignment. Nonetheless, transcendentalism persists in high school for its whole-hearted appeal to individualism.

First, a transcendental-based insurrection will probably not stem from teaching the literature. ┬áTranscendental teaching rarely calls for rebellion and in the rare cases when it does, like Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” the only result is the rightful liberation of the Indian people from British rule.

No students will completely adopt all teachings. To live a transcendental life in today’s society would fail, for students will most likely pick and choose the pieces of transcendentalism they find applicable to foster their own beliefs.

What teenagers are meant to learn from studying the period should mirror the message of any sappy high-school movie– ignore peer pressure and follow your own path. Only Emerson and Whitman say so clearer and with more beauty. They heard what teenagers hear today and use nature as their stage rather than the hectic doldrums of high school.

So transcendentalism secretly relates to daily life. When reading the intimidating works of these philosophical legends, it is easy to discount their beliefs as obsolete. But all transcendental qualities have and will persevere for their timeless qualities of individualism.

This is why we study transcendentalism. It lays its lessons bare in every piece of literature and holds such agelessness that everyone can draw from their well of knowledge.