Henry David Thoreau, Walden, and Transcendental Values for Education Essay

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, and Transcendental Values for Education Essay

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Henry David Thoreau was testing transcendental values when he took up residence at Walden Pond in 1845. During his time of simple living at the pond, he studied nature and applied those observations to humans and everyday life. He was always learning from the woods, pond, meadows and animals in the natural world around him. Nature was his classroom and everything was an opportunity to learn. In Thoreau’s book, Walden , written at the pond, he theorized that education could come through an intimacy with nature and the end of education would come with death.
Even while Thoreau was young he never agreed with a traditional classroom setting. Attending Harvard corrupted his belief of the current education system. In his eyes, school, “prevents learning rather than fosters it.” (Bickman) There are many aspects of traditional schooling Thoreau does not agree with. For example, punishment was unacceptable. After studying at Harvard, while teaching at a small college prep school, he was told his class was unruly and should resort to corporal punishment more frequently. This caused Thoreau to quit the school because of his strict opposition to that type of reprimanding. Amos Bronson Alcott, a 19th century teacher, also frowns upon corporal punishment and looks up to Thoreau’s education values. Alcott, in Correspondence, writes, “[He] chooses to see education not simply a means, a preparation for something else, but as intrinsically valuable.” Despite his opposition to schooling, Thoreau and his brother opened The Concord Academy, which created, “a working dialectic of thinking and doing, of transmitting old cultural forms and creating new ones, and of democratic schooling and the pursuit of excellence.”(Bickman). At his schoo...


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... developing alternate methods of teaching. Schools that use the outdoors as a backdrop to science and natural history education have been recognized as not only acceptable alternatives to traditional classroom education but often will make the difference between success and failure for some students. Many students cannot tolerate a traditional setting and benefit from alternate learning. Thoreau can be credited with creating a movement that incorporates nature as the learning tool to inspire thought and acceptance of lifelong learning. His ideas have provided a broad foundation for educational research. His abhorrence to corporal punishment and rejection of the memorization of facts as a real education has influenced our educational system. Transcendental thinkers such as Thoreau many people are inspire by nature to learn in the workings of nature and man.

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