Story posted January 28, 2000
Despite the common notion, education is not what happens in the classroom, and many colleges and most graduate schools are in fact vocational colleges. This was the idea Denis Corish, professor of philosophy and "Bard of Bowdoin," set before the Common Hour audience Friday.
Most institutions of learning are concerned with preparing students to become practitioners of a profession, but true education is more profound than this, he said.
While class work provides facts and context, education is what happens away from the classroom.
"Education is what goes on in one’s own mind," Corish said, "The other stuff may be extremely useful, extremely valuable
but it constitutes information, it does not constitute education."
Educational institutions teach facts, theories and many "known" and "proven" ideas. But all of the defined and proven ideas are based on defined terms or unproven assumptions, he said. It is in the working through of these unproven assumptions and the conclusions of our own ethics, that we accomplish our education and discover truths, Corish said.
Corish spoke of two definitions of school, one stemming from its original root word, meaning leisure, and another having to do with schooling, or learning an expertise.
"It is a real temptation for us to think that schooling is what school is about, and I think it is a temptation to be resisted," he said.
The title for Corish’s talk "The Voice Crying in the Wilderness" referred to the general attitude toward anyone wanting to find their own answers.
His view of education, Corish said, was not a standard view (nor an idea good for one’s career, he noted). The standard view, as it is acted out, is that time at college is meant to prepare for a job, to meet the right people and to pave the way to financial success or to learn a discipline.
Though it is possible to devote one’s life to a career or becoming a scholar, these pursuits are really only a small part of what life is, Corish said.
"The fundamental think is my vision, and my view, and what I can make of it," he said, and that idea holds true, or should, for everyone.
Corish’s lecture marked the return of Common Hour to campus after its long winter’s nap. Henry Laurence and Kathleen O’Connor are serving as masters of ceremonies this semester (they are "the Bisbee and MacEachern of the 21st century," according to Laurence). Common Hour is open to students, faculty and staff and takes place each Friday at 12:30.