Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Wed 7/21/2004 3:53 AM
Random Thought: So, I Ask Myself

I know. It's only been a couple of days since my last Random Thought, but this really got to me as I start getting into myself in preparation for getting into the Fall semester in three weeks. I'll keep this short.

I was reading an article on by Darren Rovell about the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong. Rovell observed how Lance Armstrong lives in a world that is both in the limelight and obscurity. He has name power bar none. Yet, interest in cycling is less than that of arena football and horse racing. He will command only a minute fraction of the American audience during his grueling, 22-day trek on the Tour de France in quest of a record sixth yellow shirt. But, put him in an auditorium to speak or place his image on a billboard to sell a product and all eyes turn to him. His overcoming of incredible odds, his daunting win in the battle with cancer, his stunning recovery, his equally amazing come back in his sport, and his subsequent rise in the world of cycling is what legends are made of. But, his books say it all: "Every Second Counts" and "It's Not About the Bike." He is currently the most recognizable and influential athlete. He has transcended his sport because his saga, unlike the Michael Jordans and Shaquel O'Neals and Tiger Woods, he has more relevancy to people and touches more lives away from the very narrow confines of his sport.

Now, when it comes to education, to paraphrase Lance Armstrong, it's not about the information, it's about the individual student; it's not about the curriculum on campus, it's about life away from and after the campus. Before you lunge, please hear me out.

I am a firm believer that education should be concerned with informing and performing, but its focus must be on transforming. I am a firm believer in preparing the student for the daunting "rigors of the discipline," but I am a firmer believer in preparing a student for the daunting journey through life. I am a firm believer that modern-day education should be concerned with helping a student learn what is necessary to earn a good living, but its focus must equally, if not more, be on helping a student learn to live the good life. I am a firm believer in striving for academic excellence, what good is such achievement if a student doesn't learn of the need to strive to make the highest and best use of him/herself?

David Brooks in a recent editorial raised this same issue. He observed that students "are enveloped by uncertainty. What should I do with my life? What really matters?" So as the new semester approaches, I ask myself, as Brooks would ask of me, and in the spirit of Lance Armstrong, do I transcend what Brooks calls the "professionalized information-transmission system?" and the "guild system" that throws at students people whose only credential is that they've written a dissertation and have a doctorate or have researched and published? Am I enveloped by an aura of mission and purpose outside the quest for the academic limelight? What relevancy do I have away from the limits of my profession, the still narrower confines of my discipline, and the even more narrower alleys of my courses? How much of my sight truly reaches beyond the course material and the profession? How much more am I dedicated to each student than to the discipline? How many eyes turn to me outside the classroom and away from the campus? Is all this something important I should think about? David Brooks knows it is. Lance Armstrong knows it is. So do I.

         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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