WuToWu #1: Starting School

I couldn’t think of a name for this exchange-by-blog so it’s just going to be called WuToWu for now.

Good Evening Jessica! After an early flight out and a tour of Boston’s Chinatown complete with wonton noodle soup and PMT, I’m here in a Cambridge hotel room writing to you. You’re starting school tomorrow, and even though I’m actually not starting school until September 1st, I’m transitioning into college, which is definitely a learning experience.

However, it’s a different type of learning. Your high school classes focus more on learning how to think, while my transition is more about how I’m supposed to live in the real world. I have to do a bit of reading as part of my freshman initiation, and one of my readings came from a book called Beyond the University by Michael S. Roth. In this reading, Roth touches on some different ideas about the purpose of college. Booker T. Washington focused on the practical side of higher education. At a time of legal and cultural discrimination against Blacks, Washington saw a practical education as the first step towards creating economic success and legitimacy for his race. In contrast, W.E.B Du Bois, a contemporary of Washington’s, thought that a college education should be focused on less worldly pursuits. He envisioned a system in which the educated elite would help the rest of society remember that their humanity depended on more than just work and economic success.

Next, Roth turns to Jane Addams and William James. Addams, a social activist and founder of Hull house warned against being so caught up in the intellectualism of academia that the problems of the real world cease to impact us. Both Addams and James agreed that education should serve to make us more empathetic towards others. Addams saw empathy as a way of moving us to action, while James saw it as a counter to the biases we hold against other people’s point of view.

While Roth only considers these ideas in relation to a collegiate setting, I don’t see reason why they can’t be applied to high school. I think that by considering the purpose of our education, we’ll both get a lot more out of it. Good luck tomorrow.



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