Byron's Babbles

Your Life’s Journey Is Your Education

The Education of Henry AdamsThe Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really caused me to do a great deal of reflection about education and my own education in particular. As a believer in lifelong learning, Adams assured me that investing in learning at any point in life is a sound investment. His teachings also made me reflect on the fact that living life is an education in and of itself. We need to make sure we are using the context in which we live and all the experiences to learn at the highest level. How do we do this? I believe we can learn from Adams that it is ok that we are ignorant at every new turn in life and that we need to begin learning from everyone and every experience we have. If I were to sum up the book in one statement it would be, “Your life’s journey is your education.”

In this book, Henry Adams is not talking about himself as much as he is of the education and the context in which he lived provided an education. Adams serves as the narrator in this book. At the writing he is in his late sixties and refers to himself in the third person. This is an interesting way to read an autobiography that I am not sure I like, but I got used to it. Sometimes his referring to himself in third person made it made it hard to follow, but in the context of making living life our education this was probably the right way to do it. In his “Preface,” he introduces the metaphor of a manikin, which represents Henry Adams. The various garments draped across the manikin represent his education. It was this metaphor and how all events proved learning that I formed the opinion that Adams believed in lifelong learning. He continually refers to his ignorance, which told me he was of a growth mindset long before the development of the “growth mindset” theory.

Adams tells his readers that any young man seeking education should expect no more from his teacher than the mastery of his tools. Leaning on the scientific approach that he develops in the education, he suggests that the student is merely a mass of energy. The education he seeks is a way to economize that energy. The training by the instructor is a manner of clearing obstacles from the path of the student. My take on Adams’ position is that a person’s life in its entirety is our education.

Adams wrote, “Probably no child, born in the year, held better cards than he.” Adams also told us that the world he lived was rapidly changing – as it does for all of us. It is a world of contrasts. It was this contrast that Adams used throughout the book to discuss his education. In the book Adams states that as yet he knows nothing. Even after graduating from Harvard, he did not believe his education had begun. My sense is he believed in learning by doing and being the person in the arena. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

– The Ego has … become a manikin on which the toilet of education is to be draped in order to show the fit or misfit of the clothes. The object of study is the garment, not the figure.

– Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.

– The object of education for that mind should be the teaching itself how to react with vigor and economy. No doubt the world at large will always lag so far behind the active mind as to make a soft cushion of inertia to drop upon, as it did for Henry Adams; but education should try to lessen the obstacles, diminish the friction, invigorate the energy, and should train minds to react, not at haphazard, but by choice, on the lines of force that attract their world.

And… my favorite of all the quotes: “Man does not concern himself with understanding how discoveries can be used. He will let the discovery show him how.” I really believe this reinforces my theory that Adams believed that our life’s journey is our education. How would you write the autobiography of your education? What do you need to be doing in your context to have it read how you would like it to? This book will cause you to reflect.

~ Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: