posted August 31, 1998

Speaker Calls Education Key to Navigating Life's Highways and Byways

Likening the education they were about to begin to a journey, speaker Maura Reynolds encouraged the members of Hope's incoming freshman class to be ready for the unexpected byways as well as the high-speed superhighways.

          "During your time at Hope, you may face a detour;
  you may want to make a trip to an interesting-sounding
  place; or you may decide you'd like to travel (at least for
  a while) in a style different than you planned," she said.
  "Whatever your preferred style of traveling, you'll want to
  develop some pretty sophisticated map-reading skills, to
  have the courage and the humility to go down some roads that
  may not be as well-marked as that inter-state, and to learn
  when and where to stop and get some advice."
          "And, if all of us at Hope College do our jobs, in
  the end you'll create your own map," Reynolds said.
          Reynolds, director of advising and an assistant
  professor of Latin at Hope, presented the address "Amo,
  Amas:  Love, Learning and the Life of the Mind" during the
  college's Opening Convocation on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m.
  in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.  She defined the Latin in the
  title as "I love" and "you love" respectively, references to
  the passion for learning that she hoped all would share.
          Approximately 1,000 people, primarily new students
  and their families, attended the event.  Fall semester
  classes at Hope will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 8 a.m.
          Reynolds described developing the ability to
  navigate the expected and the unexpected as a crucial
  component of the education the students would be receiving.
  "After all, a good education is much more a process than a
  product," she said.
          "And if students graduate from Hope College with a
  packet of knowledge only, we in this community (professors
  and students) have not done our jobs," she said.  "Our job
  is to help students become producers and creators of
  knowledge, and discerning, thoughtful customers of what
  other people (including their teachers) claim to know."
          "When our teaching is good, it often raises more
  questions than it answers," she said.  "Because as John
  Adams reminds us, education is not the filling of a pail,
  it's the lighting of a fire--a fire we hope will burn
  through a lifetime."
          Reynolds cited the inability to predict the future
  as a prime reason for being a life-long learner.  She
  observed, for example, that in 1899, the commissioner of the
  U.S. Patent Office said that "Everything that can be
  invented has been invented" that the chairman of IBM in 1943
  predicted "a world market for maybe five computers"; that
  Decca Records rejected the Beatles in 1962 with "We don't
  like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out"; and
  that in 1981 Bill Gates suggested that "640K ought to be
  enough for anybody."
          "In the last few years, several national surveys
  have asked students and their families, and the general
  public, about what goals they consider most important for a
  college education," she said.  "In the surveys, most people
  rejected the goal 'learning for learning's sake' as too
  'impractical.'  Instead, given what we don't know about our
  future, I think learning for learning's sake may be the most
  practical and the most marketable goal we could set for
  these four years."
          Reynolds noted that openness to different
  directions can also serve the students well as they make
  vocational choices.
          "Our vocations, our callings, are much more than
  our jobs and our careers; our vocations are all the life-
  choices that we make in response to God's gifts," she said.
          "Discerning vocations--life choices--takes time
  and patience and listening, not so much for a call from out
  there...but from a call planted right here," she said.
  "Because there is no superhighway to speed us on the road to
  these discoveries, and we'll need to draw on courage and
  humility--and sometimes we may need to take a road trip to a
  place we didn't plan to go."