While exploring Walt Whitman’s poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” readers, together with the main character, find themselves in a lecture room. Here, a respected astronomer gives a lecture supporting his arguments with charts and diagrams. However, boredom makes the student slip outside and enjoy the stars in the real world. In the search and cognitive activity of a man, there is a place for both disciplined theoretical studies and obtainment of personal experience – the balance between them constitutes the formula of an ideal education.
Student’s Experience and Issues in the Poem
When reading a poem, a person can get through the experience of the main character and try to understand him better. In the description of the time during which the student was in the class, many repetitions and enumerations are used. For example, four lines in a row start with “When,” and the author lists “the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, / and measure them” (Whitman, 1891, para. 3-4). Another important detail is the usage of passive voice: “I was shown,” “the figures, were ranged” (Whitman, 1891, para. 2-3). It creates a feeling of monotony – thus, readers can understand why boredom has overcome the main character. The reason for this is that it is difficult for a person to perceive repetitive information for a long time. It is quite likely that at the beginning of the lecture, the student was full of enthusiasm but later got tired because it was tedious.
However, when he escaped from the lecture room, the feeling changed considerably. Here, dry academic studies and immediate delight of life are contrasted. Readers can feel this difference in the description of nature: “the mystical moist night-air” or “perfect silence” (Whitman, 1891, para. 9-10). Such observation, thanks to the greatness and beauty of things that can be known in reality rather than theory, can return inspiration and motivation to learning. Moreover, the emotions and feelings that a person can experience in the real world cannot be transmitted through plain facts and figures.
Different Opinions on Topic
By studying “Questions, I Should Ask Myself If I Have a Teacher” by Carl Rogers, one can surely assume that this expert will agree with the idea that it is necessary to combine theory and practice for active learning. For example, he says that “it is not necessary to teach them [children] but they do need resources to feed the interests” (Rogers, 1973, p.137). Rogers also shared his personal story from childhood, in which he acquired incredible knowledge of moths. The base for this was great interest and long experience of working with them rather than from textbooks that served only as help. He focuses on things like creativity; trust with teachers, and, of course, students’ interests.
Little children are more inspired and motivated to learn than adults. They know how to explore the world around contacting it. However, children lose this ability after starting studying in school and adapting to the education system with its grades, competition, and requirements for clumsiness. As Lahey (2019) writes, if parents want “kids to remain curious and hungry for mastery”, they should pay more attention to what experience they get at school rather than grades (para. 31). Students should not be severely restricted, but it is crucial to develop their interests and potential.
Summing up, the protagonist of Whitman’s poem faced the monotony of theoretical learning. If it is always happening in that way, anyone will find it challenging to develop and learn as the human brain will be bored. Various methods must maintain interest and motivation in learning. In particular, it is essential to remember that the studied real world is not displayed only in books and articles. For this reason, to better understand it, one needs to interact with it, receive experience, and emotions.
Lahey, J. (2019). How to help your child succeed at school. The New York Times. Web.
Rogers, C. R. (1973). Questions I would ask myself if I were a teacher. Education, 95(2), 134-139.
Whitman, W. (1891). When I heard the learn’d astronomer. The Walk Whitman Archive. Web.