Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2002 07:27:28 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: Random Thoughts: Those Pithy Quotes

Have you noticed how so many of us do love our high sounding quotes about education and teaching? We page through Bartlette's to find them. We underline them in books and articles. We excise them from speeches. We throw them out. We paste them on our doors. We mount them on our walls. We write them into our syllabi. We cite them on our web sites. We configure them into our e-signatures. And then, too often, too many of us fundamentally ignore them, thinking, to paraphrase the Bard, the quote doth make the educator.

Does it? Really? There is a risk, a threat, a danger, a challenge to embracing these snappy phrases and sentences. We offer up these quotes as examples. Examples of what? Of what we are? Of what we aspired to be? Of what we wish we were? We have to be careful that these quotes don't come back to bite us, that they do not reveal too much or too little of us. We obviously want others to read them, but do we really read and re-read them ourselves once we've cut and pasted? We wouldn't want to create an apparent contradiction between utterance and deed that drags such quoted eloquence from the depths of the profound into the shallows of sloganeering, that so emptys the words by empty action that they become rhetorical gloss, or, as Macbeth might say, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Do we live them? We should. The guide is there in those words. We have only to think about the advice and the direction they offer, and then have the humility to see if we are following them ourselves. They should be the lyrics for our soul's song, the rhythm of our body's energy, the panorama of our true vision. Do we use really them as catalysts, stimulants, guides, magnets, road maps, beacons? Do we use them to set the mood, create the climate, choreograph steps, deepen understanding, do good works?

Do we live them? We should. Do we really give thought to them beyond their rythmic and melodious sound? Do we hear their beckoning call? Do we use them to initiate those critical and crucial inner conversations with ourselves? Do we use them to resonate?

Do we live them? We should. I have this strong feeling that these quotes so often are glimmers of shadow beliefs, hidden hopes, our secret "if only," our muffled "I wish" on which we too often are afraid to shine our light and on whose path we dare not risk be seen walking.

Do we live them? We should. Do we let them get under our skin and itch our spirit? Do we feel challenged by them and struggle to rise to their occasion? Do we use them to focus. Do we really understand, want to understand, ponder, search, reflect, for example, when we quote someone like Mark Twain who said "I never let school get in the way of my education?"

Do we live them? We should. Do we use them as a catalyst for giving thought, a lot of thought, beyond the snappiness, to the questions, "who am I?" "what is an education?" Or, do we get our high-sounding quote first and then interpret it as we please to certify the validity of what we are already doing? Sometimes, I wonder if we merely post and inscribe these quotes as the false certainty and security of a Linneaus blanket, as masks behind which we hide ourselves, and as costumes in which we dress ourselves.

Do we live them? We should. Think of what Abigail Adams wrote her husband during the American Revolution. She said something to the effect that we need active participants, not inactive spectators. There are too many high sounding words, she wrote, and too few actions to correspond with them.

Do we live them? We should. There is so much power in a quote for someone who cares to look and hear, to see and listen. When you read the words, you should exclaim, "Ah, this is my story. This is something I always wanted to say but didn't have the right words." The quote should bring forth something that is waiting to be brought forth. It's purpose is spiritual instruction and emotional direction. The quote speaks of potential. The quote doesn't render the experience; it suggests it. You have to experience the words to catch the message. Otherwise, you're not hearing what is said.

Do we live them? We should. We shouldn't just mount a guote. That's not reflection. Thinking about why you mounted the quote is reflection. Thinking about how you live or can live or will struggle to live the quote is reflection. After all, we carry our quality in our manner, not in our posted words. Our character is revealed in doing the right things, not saying the right things.

Oh, don't forget to read the quote in my signature below.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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