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Man Thinking

I have written countless essays for school. I have analyzed and criticized and explored texts written by Columbus and Franklin. I have read books and thought about them for school. Most of the time these essays are written in five hours, the day before they're due, and somehow I pull A's for my work. This must mean I'm a smart person. I can work through pretty tough theories for class, but how many scholarly essays have I written for my own benefit? How much thinking have I done about literature and philosophy on my own?
Emerson has me thinking about these things these days.
How much of my intelligence is regurgitated? How much of it is structured by the institution?
I have learned how to play the game, meet a deadline, write a good paper, finish a project, so now I need to apply it, right? Emerson says that books are meant to inspire. He says that we as thoughtful people should use our intelligence for other means, we shouldn't just copy the great minds, we should light our own way.

I am great at analysis, but have I ever formed an original idea? How many of my work has been written simply to meet a professor's standards? Uh, 100%.
If I was left to self-educate would my scholarship be of higher, more original quality? Would rejoice in the freedom to elect my own curriculum? It would be a challenge I think.
I want to be a lifelong learner, but do I know how to apply my intelligence outside of the system?

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