Thursday, January 21, 2016

Book Review: Robert Frost, Teacher by Nancy Vogel

Robert Frost, TeacherRobert Frost, Teacher by Nancy Vogel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading about Robert Frost as an educator. Did you know he and his wife educated their children at home? And although he taught at colleges, he didn't earn a degree in the typical fashion, but was given multiple honorary ones. His "lover's quarrel with the world," as he put it, definitely included educational establishments. He was a unique teacher. One story relates how he once asked his class after they'd handed in their papers whether anyone cared enough for what he'd written to want his paper returned after he'd read them. No one wanted the papers, so Frost went over and threw the whole stack in the trash, saying he didn't "intend to become a reader perfunctory of perfunctory writing." :) He was a thinker who made many thought-provoking statements in his teaching, lecturing, and literature.
This little book consists mainly of a lot of quotes. It also repeats some of the same thoughts in some of the chapters, from slightly different angles to make different points. Maybe the idea was to have the chapters stand alone. It is well-documented, which I appreciate. It's sort of a rare book currently and I got it on inter-library loan, having heard about it from another book. I didn't like it enough to pay an inflated price for it to get my own copy. I do want to write out some quotes to keep and reference, and it did make me curious to possibly read another more complete biography of Frost someday.

Some more interesting Robert Frost quotes:

"I accept school just as I accept the sonnet form or any other social convention: only it seems to be in me to want to make the school as un-schoollike as possible" (9).

"I have wanted in late years to go further and further in making metaphor the whole of thinking"

"literature courses are for those who aren't going to be writers, who're going to be readers. The writers should take history, science, philosophy" (60).

"we go to college to be given one more chance to learn to read in case we haven't learned in High School. Once we have learned to read the rest can be trusted to add itself to us" (61).

"The greatest nonsense of our time has been the solution of the school problem by forsaking knowledge for thought.... The point is that neither knowledge nor thought is an end and neither is nearer an end than the other. The end they both serve, perhaps equally, is deeds in such accepted and nameable forms as the sonnet, the story, the vase, the portrait, the landscape, the hat, the scythe, the gun, the food, the bread, the house, the home, the factory, the election, the government. We must always be about definite deeds to be growing" (62-3).

"I am a terribly hard judge on people without books" (72).

"I once said to a class at Amherst that any boy who bought one hundred dollars' worth of books would get the mark of A, or B for fifty dollars' worth, and the rest would fail" (72).

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