THE VIEW FROM PLUM LICK
Burning for knowledge
Classrooms should encourage new thinking, but students have to do their part, too
The embers smolder through the night.
Blossoms of honey locust go on sleeping.
But another well-placed log feels right at home in the wood-burning stove where I watch the signals of hope for better days ahead in the classrooms of the Commonwealth.
Shall we define classroom? Is it not more than ordered rows of chairs? More than last year’s scribbled notebooks? Yes, and by all means, more than bells ringing the time for another recess?
Too often we Kentuckians are satisfied with the yesterdays of our lives.
Just as embers need careful and prayerful tending, new flames require more mindful walks to the woodshed. For what is that structure but the potential capacity for heat, light, and improved knowledge?
A classroom, then, should be an awakening.
Yellow school buses with warning lights flashing
in descending fog are necessary, standard practice. The accumulation of graded honors is more debatable. Successful cramming and memorizing for “correct” answers is about as futile as firing with wet matches.
What is a university if it does not encourage new thinking? What good did it do the student who answered the roll call, then crawled out the back door and scampered away to old tried-and-true habits?
As I sit before the gathering early morning fire of another November on Plum Lick, wondering about the coming February, a favorite month of mine,
I remember my own university experiences. I wish I had read more, considered more, burned more brightly, paid less attention to peers who wouldn’t know a woodshed from a water trough.
I might as well have been the one who crawled out the back door.
Too often, the young mind is derailed by flawed pop culture. The effect is sometimes called instant gratification. It includes unmeasured decibels of sound, drug-induced sensations, train wrecks of monstrous proportions.
There are many opportunities for new excellence, and they are listed in this issue of Kentucky Living. Of course, not every place of higher learning is right for everybody. The challenge is to select with care, and then leave all doors open.
Therefore, I select another log of seasoned honey locust, open the door of the stove, and place the piece on the top of the growing fire, the leading edge. I try not to disturb the foundation of embers.
This is winter talk. Spring and summer talk awaits the seasonal shifts. Now’s the time to do what’s most important for all my brothers and sisters and me—to be the best that we can be, and not be satisfied with crawling out back doors of learning places.
Let us join together in a united life force, yet always remember the importance of individual effort. Let us build and tend our God-given fires. Let us take each month as it comes.
And that’s how this month I celebrate my 80th birthday.