–The highest role of the educator is in the maieutic role of Socrates: to help the student come to himself not as a consumer of experience but as a sovereign individual (Percy 47).In the selection from The Loss of the Creature by Walker Percy we are again confronted with the idea from “The most photographed barn in America.” When the barn became labeled as “the most photographed barn in America” it became part of a packaged experience to those who either saw it by accident or sought it out as a tourist destination. It was no longer about the barn and the qualities it possessed that inspired the original photographer, but instead it was about experiencing taking a photo of the barn. As in The Loss of the Creature, the barn article also presents the idea that a way of rediscovering the barn is by observing those observing or experiencing it. According to Percy one cannot see the object by looking directly at it.
Most education has become a prepackaged experience. We have expectations for the classroom and our teachers as well as for what being educated will do for our lives. An educators job is to help students break free from the experience and the expectations to discover the beauty of a Shakespearean Sonnet or the originality of the dogfish. However, according to Percy, any attempt to help students do this “succeeds in becoming, for the student, part of the educational package” (Percy 63). I think on this point I am not entirely in agreement. I think Percy is stating that attempts to help the student discover knowledge in an original and meaningful way is impossible and that the only thing educators can do is help their students become “sovereign individuals” (Percy 63).
To explain my point I am going to refer to a discussion that we had in class. When talking about the possibility that teachers can learn from their students, Adam mentioned that with certain texts there are specific bits of knowledge that students must glean from the pages and he helps them do this with carefully guided lessons that lead students from point to point. This is an example of a prepackaged, expected, and, for the current high school classroom, required educational experience. Flash-forward to a college literature course where the instructor has detailed knowledge of every page in a text with notes of every agreed upon interpretation and yet designs his or her lesson to allow students to determine what in the text is of note and meaning. In the college classroom the students are discovering the text in an original and meaningful way with the help of an instructor aren’t they? On this point I am not sure. I agree that it is still part of the experience but I do think that educators can be successful at helping the student discover the “creature” even while I admit that by presenting them with a specific text we are presenting them with a packaged experience(Percy 47).
Working at the community college I have seen many students that are so wrapped up like mummies in the educational experience that any opportunity to discover knowledge passes them by. They are, as Percy names them, “consumer[s] of experience” (Percy 63). They go to class, turn in homework, take tests, and write papers not in pursuit of knowledge but in pursuit of the college experience and what the experience will bring. Their classes are taught with a lot of guiding from one point of knowledge to the next and they are trained to regurgitate the right or accepted knowledge on demand. Could we call this group of students educational tourists?