The Road to Character – not a novel – has a chapter on struggle and Doris Day’s life journey towards faith. A couple of sentences caught my attention and I’ve been rolling them over, particularly in light of last night’s stunning project presentations from various classes highlighting the hard work that goes on in the arts, in robotics, in psychology, and in social entrepreneurship classes. Fewer people today see artists as oracles and novels as a form of revelation. The cognitive sciences have replaced literature as the way many people attempt to understand their own minds. What? The novel and art dismissed by the cognitive sciences? No more fictional worlds explored, no more self-understanding deepened through characters? The arts unnecessary? Should the dismantling of English Departments begin tomorrow?
Hold on. Sure, the cognitive sciences have brought wonderful revelations about learning, but are they the antidote to the pace of the world today? The wretched march forced upon most adolescents (and adults) by the onslaught of technology comingles the new and the now to create constant cool. The new now is a cultural clock, always ticking. Just walk into any Apple store to get a strong, thrilling dose. What’s to parse the illusion? The alarming rush of information bombarding the senses form the various platforms of social media, what’s to protect us? Steady us? The cognitive sciences?
Enter the novel.
I doubt it.
Mike Henriques P'11, P'15
Proctor Academy Head of School