Dear Commons Community,
New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, comments on the recent controversy that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker ignited when he sought to change the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin. Drawing on other famous American political leaders including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, he challenges those who see college as strictly a path to a job. He shares his own story at the University of North Carolina when he was introduced to Shakespeare. Here is an excerpt:
“And it’s dangerous to forget that in a democracy, college isn’t just about making better engineers but about making better citizens, ones whose eyes have been opened to the sweep of history and the spectrum of civilizations.
It’s also foolish to belittle what those of us in Hall’s class got from Shakespeare and from her illumination of his work.
“Stay a little.” She showed how that simple request harbored such grand anguish, capturing a fallen king’s hunger for connection and his tenuous hold on sanity and contentment. And thus she taught us how much weight a few syllables can carry, how powerful the muscle of language can be.
She demonstrated the rewards of close attention. And the way she did this — her eyes wild with fervor, her body aquiver with delight — was an encouragement of passion and a validation of the pleasure to be wrung from art. It informed all my reading from then on. It colored the way I listened to people and even watched TV.
It transformed me.
Was this a luxury? Sure. But it was also the steppingstone to a more aware, thoughtful existence. College was the quarry where I found it.”
Bruni’s words are poetic and right!