Monday, June 23, 2008

Where's Ralph Waldo?

A few years ago, I bought a used copy of "Emerson's Essays." The one titled "Self-Reliance" was especially intriguing to me. For some reason, I did not sit down and study the essays. The book became more of a talisman than a tool for thought.

The issue of changing the name of Emerson School made me take the book off its shelf again. Was there something in Emerson's work for the modern student or not?

"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string."

Good advice for any age.

Among other quotes from his works:

"Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you."

"The world belongs to the energetic."

"Hitch your wagon to a star."

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

If in fact the students of today can't relate to the old 19th century Transcendentalist, maybe they should try again. Most of his works can be found online.

Meanwhile, the $40 million new Emerson School is scheduled to open in September. Click here for a previous Plaintalker post on the new school. It is the second "community school" in Plainfield. Like the first, Washington Community School, it is designed to become a focus for all sorts of activities and events.

Besides the question of what to name the school, there is the question of what will take the place of Emerson at the so-called "swing" school. The former National Starch building was purchased for $6 million by the now-defunct Schools Construction Corp., which was replaced by the Schools Development Authority. Jefferson School is housed there and Clinton School was there until consturction was completed at the new Clinton School. The swing school was eventually to be returned to the tax rolls as a ratable once it was no longer needed for temporary occupancy by students whose new schools were under construction.

With no new projects on the horizon, how will the swing school be phased out? Or will the new proposed infusion of school construction funding result in a new middle school or other building? It's yet another thing for incoming Superintendent Steve Gallon III to look into.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Ralph Waldo isn't so outdated, is he? the fact that the students don't' relate to him, that the teachers and parents don't relate to him is a sad truth about the lack of education going on in this town..

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wrong you all are...

It's not about NOT being able to relate...for PETE's SAKES that all African Americans have been doing for the past 400+ years --trying to relate!

How about it's an opportunity for this community to to provide historical eponym and context for all parties concerned. What Rosa Parks did for Civil Rights benefitted us it is in that spirit that we give honor by naming a school that for all intent and purposes represents HOPE, Hardwork, and in the words of Emerson -- "make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you" -- all the result of an EDUCATION!

Now -- that's how we relate

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the previous poster, who are you speaking for in terms of the "that's how we relate" comment? No one said that Rosa Parks's place in American history isn't hugely important. That is a side issue to the renaming of the school. "Historical eponym and context for all parties"--Emerson still fits the bill. However, I don't think that a qualitative comparison is needed regarding this issue. Emerson's stature as an intellectual/literary/scholarly figure is why I think the school name should remain as is.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To whom do you think I am speaking of...the pronoun is "We" can define that how you'd like.

I never said anyone said did I.

I simply expressed a viewpoint for consideration. I am allowed to do that!

The Emerson name has served its purpose -- its a new day and time for a new name and that is why I KNOW the name should be changed!

1:34 PM  

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