On the “Second Education” and Ipods

A friend sent me this note:

Friday’s NYT includes a good column by David Brooks, who contrasts one’s first education (the stuff you do at school), with a second education in what he terms one’s emotional curriculum. In his case, he writes, such an education began on the evening of 02 February 1975, when he tuned in WMMR in Philadelphia and heard music by a group called Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Brooks writes, ‘The knowledge transmitted in an emotional education . . . comes indirectly, seeping through the cracks of the windowpanes, from under the floorboards and through the vents. It’s generally a byproduct of the search for pleasure, and the learning is indirect and unconscious.’ He goes on to add (before describing his teenage daughter’s delight at her own first Springsteen concert), ‘I’m not claiming my second education has been exemplary or advanced. I’m describing it because I’ve only become aware of it retrospectively, and society pays too much attention to the first education and not enough to the second.’

One could argue (guys with jobs in education, for example) that our task is specifically to see to the demands of the first education (to use Brooks’ term)–fair enough. But we might be more successful with that task if we were imaginative, or perhaps honest enough to be aware of the importance of the second–we too experienced versions of Brooks’ February epiphany.

But we need not be at war with the second one (‘get rid of that ipod’, etc.–though sometimes ipods have to be stowed); we might recollect that we ourselves often felt lucky to find second educational outlets; something that filled a void related to first. And it then follows that we must work to understand what apparent obstinacy actually means (or feels like) to the teenager clutching an ipod, seemingly, to his very soul.


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