ENGLISH 101. ACADEMIC WRITING
brief review of
The shortest college commencement address in history was given by Dr. Harold E. Hyde, President of Plymouth State College in New Hampshire long ago. He said: "Know yourself--Socrates. Control yourself--Cicero. Give yourself--Christ." Then he sat down.
Hyde's record is in no danger from me. I can't stop myself from making one last summary of our course and philosophizing about the nature of human experience. But seriously, I think it's valuable to take a little time to reflect. What are the take-aways from the course?
we discover any truth? Did we practice virtue?
1. The Return of Socrates (Apology 29d)
do nothing all day but go around persuading you, old and young alike,
not to take thought for your persons or your property, but first and
mainly to care about the improvement of your souls.
2. Review of Course Goals and Achievements
Remember the course goals listed at the beginning in our orientation? Here they are again.
How did we do? Did you set particular goals for the semester? Did you meet them?
What goals will you set for next semester? Make resolutions. Put them in writing and tell them to anyone who will listen. Self-improvement comes to those who work at it through goal-setting, planning and regular periodic review of progress.
to all of you survivors of English 101! If you passed the
Plato exam, the research report, and the mock-final, you are
prepared for all future college writing assignments that may be required
of you. Just remember COW (how could you forget?), and consult Hacker's
rule book for details.
This course has been a bargain. You got two for the price of one! There was an outer course and an inner course, a public one and a private one, the one where we met each other and the one where we met ourselves.
I'd like to claim double-pay, but the truth is that all courses are double. Human experience is double. We are conscious of both an external world and an internal one. Our attention turns outward, then inward, next outward again, next inward again, back and forth between self and other, like an amphibian hopping in and out of water all day long.
This double life that you have been leading explains why you learned only half of every course that you have taken (half of the part of the course that you attended, that is). Part of the time, you took in the talk and action (such as it was) unfolding around you. The rest of the time, you day-dreamed, brooded, remembered, planned or otherwise talked and listened to yourself. Some of the students who left our class a few weeks early may have become a little too interesting to themselves. I can't know their thoughts, but I imagine that some of them disappeared because they collapsed inward, self-absorbed like black holes.
All of us tend to favor one world or the other, as extroverts or introverts. In the sciences, the external world is the "real" one, and the internal world is merely a shadow place of illusion, fantasy, and dreams. In the arts, however, these priorities are reversed; it's what we think that matters most. This view is unscientific, but it's not mistaken. Our thought shapes our character, spirit, morals, personality, motivation. It governs how we explain ourselves, what we plan to do, and whether we are happy. Always remember that happiness and its alternatives are states of mind. If you have trouble with money, relationships, health or anything else, happiness and its alternatives are still state of mind.
What have we learned about ourselves in this arts course, English 101? I hope that we have learned something about our potentials for self-development. Our lesson plan can be summed up simply in terms of the 3 D's that measure the length, width and depth of our spirit. They are desire, discipline, and determination.
We have spoken of desire since Day 1. Many are victims to desire, but desire lies within our self-control, and we can direct its awesome power for our benefit. We control our desire by thinking positively and by looking for what's right in each situation (not what's wrong with it). We direct our desire by setting goals, and by making sure the goals are measurable, challenging and attainable. We keep our goals alive by writing them down, by telling them to anyone who will listen, and by setting aside time to think about them very often, at least once per day.
We have spoken of discipline (in some cases as assignments failed to materialize on time or as they appeared with signs of last-minute haste). All complex, long-range or self-directed tasks require time management. Use a scheduler or at least a pocket planner to divide each project into a series of manageable steps. Cleary define each step, schedule all of the steps on the calendar, and take each step by the time when it is due. If any step is missed so that it is late even by one day, reschedule it immediately, and resolve not to fall behind again. A goal with no specific action plan or definite schedule is only an idle dream.
Determination is the backup to the other two D's. The unforeseen happens; things go awry. When we suffer setbacks, determination rejects the impulse to give up. It revives our desire and discipline to set us back on course. The strength of determination always lies within us, because hopelessness is only a state of mind. If it seems impossible to summon determination, however, seek expert advice. Reflect on models of courage, and talk to an experienced counselor. Do not accept defeat and expect to be declared a winner.
Thoughts (both good and bad) are infectious. Evaluate the 3-D's in other people. Look especially carefully at the nearest people, those closest in your own personal network. Do they strive for excellence, or do they just hope to slide by? Are they positive about work, or do they avoid making unnecessary exertion? In pursuing goals, are they resolute or easily discouraged? Do they admire or ridicule the achievements of others? Because of your efforts to "fit in," your D's are likely to be about average for the group that you associate with. A group that is characterized by mediocrity will restrain its members from excellence.
Avoid black holes, and associate with those people who light shines bright.
And now it's time to announce the class valedictorian. I am proud of all that you have accomplished in our brief time together, and I will miss all of you. . . because your ARE going to pass the exam! Best wishes for your college careers and beyond!
Left: a bright young lady anxiously reads her TC3 course schedules each semester to see whether Dr. G is offering Undead Greeks! A Survey of Ancient Greek Literature.