In his essay "The American Scholar" Ralph Waldo Emerson expresses a rather progressive for his time position on the role and the duties of the intellectual, as well as on the different ways of learning and their significance. He rejects the rigid methods of education, which rely on the "exertion of mechanical skills," and speaks in support of a teaching that develops the personality and gives importance to the individual.
Emerson states that the three main ways in which a person learns are through nature, through the past, best communicated in the form of books, and through his own actions. If he was a teacher, probably he would encourage his students to observe, admire and analyze, to find the differences and similarities between the objects and phenomena in the surrounding world, the nature and the people, and in this manner learn about themselves and form their opinions and values.
The author writes that "books are the best type of the influence of the past," and they can be an infinite source of knowledge but he emphasizes that reading alone is not enough. No book is perfect because it gives a limited amount of information and reflects the mentality of its author and the peculiarities of its time. Emerson dislikes the image of the bookworm as opposed to "the Man Thinking," who uses the books to gather knowledge and inspiration, but who thinks independently and himself is a writer and creator. The third and most important according to Emerson way of learning is through action. He states that people should not waste even a moment in idleness; the main purpose of the true scholar is to create, to acquire knowledge through his experiences.
Therefore, Emerson, and the teachers who follow his model, would expect from the students not only...