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1.

evaluative

exercising or involving careful appraisals

You are, as Foucault might say, the intersection of many evaluative and potentially
determining discourses: you boy, you girl, have been made.

2. cartographer

a person who makes maps

Never has there been a more shrewd and imaginative cartographer of the psyche.

3. discomfit

cause to lose one's composure

I was, you might say, discomfited, and showed up to class for a while with my cellphone
jiggered to dial 911 with one touch.

4. psyche

that which is responsible for one's thoughts and feelings

Never has there been a more shrewd and imaginative cartographer of the psyche.

5. prognosticate

make a prediction about; tell in advance

And all of those teachers and counselors and friends—and the prognosticating uncles,
the dithering aunts, the fathers and mothers with their hopes for your fulfillment—or their
fulfillment in you—should not necessarily be cast aside or ignored.

6. winnow

the act of separating grain from chaff

The battle is to make such writers one’s own, to winnow them out and to find their
essential truths.

7. embed

fix or set securely or deeply

Embedded in all of the major religions are profound truths.


8. provenance

where something originated or was nurtured

They have confronted you with scriptures—holy books that, whatever their actual
provenance, have given people what they feel to be wisdom for thousands of years.

9. amok

wildly; without self-control

The Internet is amok with services selling term papers and those services exist,
capitalism being what it is, because people purchase the papers—lots of them.

10. relegate

assign to a lower position

The coach knows what your athletic prospects are, the guidance office has a sheaf of test
scores that relegate you to this or that ability quadrant, and your teachers have got you
pegged.

11. leery

openly distrustful and unwilling to confide

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or
assault plain and simple.

12. detach

cause to become separated

At the time I found his remark a tad detached, but maybe he was right.

13. cornucopia

a horn filled with fruit and grain symbolizing prosperity

Society has a cornucopia of resources to encourage you in doing what society needs
done but that you don’t much like doing and are not cut out to do.

14. protract

lengthen in time; cause to be or last longer


They’ve given you a sharp and protracted taste of what they feel is good and bad, right
and wrong.

15. indenture

formal agreement as to terms of a debt

Then there are those back-breaking student loans—people leave school as servants,
indentured to pay massive bills, so that first job better be a good one.

16. academia

the world of higher learning

The people who do this work have highly developed intellectual powers, and they push
themselves hard to reach a certain standard: That the results have almost no practical
relevance to the students, the public, or even, frequently, to other scholars is a central
element in the tragicomedy that is often academia.

17. disgorge

eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth

Black limousines pulled up in front of his office and disgorged decorously suited
negotiators.

18. ethos

the distinctive spirit of a culture or an era

As far as I can discern, the student ethos goes like this: If the professor is so lazy that he
gives the same test every year, it’s okay to go ahead and take advantage—you’ve both
got better things to do.

19. quaff

to swallow hurriedly or greedily or in one draught

If you advance in the direction of someone else’s dreams—if you want to live someone
else’s life rather than yours—then get a TV for every room, buy yourself a lifetime
supply of your favorite quaff, crank up the porn channel, and groove away.

20. libation

the act of pouring a liquid offering as a religious ceremony


Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and
swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

21. eschew

avoid and stay away from deliberately

The student who eschews medical school to follow his gift for teaching small children
spends his twenties in low-paying but pleasurable and soul-rewarding toil.

22. expertly

in an expert manner

Because every subject you study is a language and since you may adopt one of these
languages as your own, you’ll want to know how to speak it expertly and also how it
fails to deal with those concerns for which it has no adequate words.

23. relevance

the relation of something to the matter at hand

The people who do this work have highly developed intellectual powers, and they push
themselves hard to reach a certain standard: That the results have almost no practical
relevance to the students, the public, or even, frequently, to other scholars is a central
element in the tragicomedy that is often academia.

24. pessimist

a person who expects the worst

He couldn’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, or in the afterlife, but to Schopenhauer, a


deep pessimist, a religion that had as its central emblem the figure of a man being
tortured on a cross couldn’t be entirely misleading.

25. prod

to push against gently

Occasionally—for you will need some help in fleshing-out the answers—you may have
to prod your professors to see if they take the text at hand—in this case the divine and
disturbing Plato—to be true.

26. compress

squeeze or press together


My father compressed his brow and blew twin streams of smoke, dragon-like, from his
magnificent nose.

27. administrator

someone who manages a government agency or department

As for the administrators, their relation to the students often seems based not on love
but fear.

28. shoddy

of inferior workmanship and materials

Shoddy work—in which the author cheats, cuts corners, copies from others—is quickly
detected.

29. resource

aid or support that may be drawn upon when needed

I came to college with few resources, but one of them was an understanding, however
crude, of how I might use my opportunities there.

30. dwindle

become smaller or lose substance

But then interest dwindles and matters go back to normal.

31. revere

regard with feelings of respect

You have been raised in proximity to common sense, if you’ve been raised at all, and
common sense is something to respect, though not quite—peace unto the formidable
Burke—to revere.

32. college

an institution of higher education

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement.

33. touchstone
a basis for comparison

Brodhead, an impressive, articulate man, seems to take as his educational touchstone the
Duke of Wellington’s precept that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields
of Eton.

34. articulate

express or state clearly

Brodhead, an impressive, articulate man, seems to take as his educational touchstone the
Duke of Wellington’s precept that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields
of Eton.

35. goad

stab or urge on as if with a pointed stick

He was—and is—a perpetual challenge and goad.

36. fraught

filled with or attended with

Trying to figure out whether the stuff you’re reading is true or false and being open to
having your life changed is a fraught, controversial activity.

37. disparity

inequality or difference in some respect

The public senses this disparity and so thinks of the professors’ work as being silly or
beside the point.

38. consequential

having important issues or results

I learned that if I wanted to affirm any consequential ideal, I had to talk my way past
Freud.

39. expend

use up, consume fully


But when we expend our energies in rightful ways, Robert Frost observed, we stay whole
and vigorous and we don’t weary.

40. temerity

fearless daring

A friend of mine had the temerity to detect cheating on the part of a kid who was the
nephew of a well-placed official in an Arab government complexly aligned with the U.S.

41. erotic

giving sexual pleasure; sexually arousing

He calls it “the overestimation of the erotic object.”

42. analytical

using or skilled in using reasoning

And you will have to be tough if the professor mocks you for uttering a sincere question
instead of keeping matters easy for all concerned by staying detached and analytical.

43. revise

make changes to

He didn’t get to revise his understanding of himself, figure out what he’d do best that
might give the world some profit.

44. stroll

a leisurely walk, usually in some public place

Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and
swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

45. detached

no longer connected or joined

At the time I found his remark a tad detached, but maybe he was right.

46. nonetheless

despite anything to the contrary


Scholarship, even if pretentious and almost unreadable, is nonetheless labor-intense.

47. challenging

requiring full use of your abilities or resources

When he came to Harvard to talk about religion, he shocked the professors and students
by challenging the divinity of Jesus and the truth of his miracles.

48. reliance

the state of depending on something

Much more I learned from the sage—about character, about loss, about joy, about writing
and its secret sources, but Emerson most centrally preaches the gospel of self- reliance
and that is what I have tried most to take from him.

49. navigate

direct carefully and safely

His separation of the self into three parts, and his sense of the fraught, anxious, but often
negotiable relations among them (negotiable when you come to the game with a Freudian
knowledge), does a great deal to help one navigate experience.

50. sheaf

a package of several things tied together

The coach knows what your athletic prospects are, the guidance office has a sheaf of test
scores that relegate you to this or that ability quadrant, and your teachers have got you
pegged.

51. barrage

the heavy fire of artillery to saturate an area

(Though sometimes—and this I owe to Emerson—it seems right to let the psyche fall into
civil war, accepting barrages of anxiety and grief for this or that good reason.)

52. periodically

in a sporadic manner

Periodically the public gets exercised about this situation, and there are articles in the
national news.
53. surround

extend on all sides of simultaneously; encircle

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman.

54. transcendent

exceeding or surpassing usual limits

Schopenhauer, who despised belief in transcendent things, nonetheless thought


Christianity to be of inexpressible worth.

55. pretentious

creating an appearance of importance or distinction

Scholarship, even if pretentious and almost unreadable, is nonetheless labor-intense.

56. exhilarating

making lively and joyful

Emerson’s greatness lies not only in showing you how powerful names and customs can
be, but also in demonstrating how exhilarating it is to buck them.

57. synonymous

meaning the same or nearly the same

“Strongly spent,” the poet says, “is synonymous with kept.”

58. guy

an informal term for a youth or man

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or
assault plain and simple.

59. astonish

affect with wonder


You can get a terrific education in America now—there are astonishing opportunities at
almost every college—but the education will not be presented to you wrapped and
bowed.

60. quest

the act of searching for something

The quest at the center of a liberal-arts education is not a luxury quest; it’s a necessity
quest.

61. challenge

a call to engage in a contest or fight

When he came to Harvard to talk about religion, he shocked the professors and students
by challenging the divinity of Jesus and the truth of his miracles.

62. exaggerate

enlarge beyond bounds or the truth

If you do not undertake it, you risk leading a life of desperation—maybe quiet, maybe, in
time, very loud—and I am not exaggerating.

63. intermittent

stopping and starting at irregular intervals

He buys shirts from the Salvation Army, has intermittent Internet, and vacations where
he can.

64. radically

in an extreme or revolutionary manner

This is radically false.

65. gruff

brusque and surly and forbidding

My father was a gruff man, but also a generous one, so that night at the kitchen table at
58 Clewley Road he made an effort to let me have the chance that had been denied to him
by both fate and character.
66. suggest

make a proposal; declare a plan for something

The dean of students laughed lightly when I suggested that this behavior might be
grounds for sending the student on a brief vacation.

67. legacy

a gift of personal property by will

The legacy of their college years will be a legacy of difficulties overcome.

68. develop

progress or evolve through a process of natural growth

This I began to develop because of my father, who had never been to college—in fact,
he’d barely gotten out of high school.

69. salient

having a quality that thrusts itself into attention

Education has one salient enemy in present-day America, and that enemy is education—
university education in particular.

70. altering

the sterilization of an animal

This kind of perspective- altering teaching and learning can cause the things which
administrators fear above all else: trouble, arguments, bad press, etc.

71. thesis

an unproved statement advanced as a premise in an argument

All right, there’s nothing wrong with this as far as it goes—after all, the student who
writes a brilliant forty-page thesis in a hard week has learned more than a little about her
inner resources.

72. detect

discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of


Shoddy work—in which the author cheats, cuts corners, copies from others—is quickly
detected.

73. enhance

increase

What colleges generally want are well-rounded students, civic leaders, people who know
what the system demands, how to keep matters light, not push too hard for an education
or anything else; people who get their credentials and leave the professors alone to do
their brilliant work, so they may rise and enhance the rankings of the university.

74. creator

a person who grows or makes or invents things

It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.”

75. ponder

reflect deeply on a subject

From Freud I found a great deal to ponder as well.

76. aspire

have an ambitious plan or a lofty goal

I don’t mean Freud the aspiring scientist, but the Freud who was a speculative essayist
and interpreter of the human condition like Emerson.

77. affront

a deliberately offensive act

Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and
swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

78. projection

the act of expelling or ejecting

Having found what’s best for you to do, you may be surprised how far you rise, how
prosperous, even against your own projections, you become.

79. precept
rule of personal conduct

Brodhead, an impressive, articulate man, seems to take as his educational touchstone the
Duke of Wellington’s precept that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields
of Eton.

80. repress

conceal or hide

They’re disguised fulfillments of repressed wishes.

81. raise

move upwards

It’s been said that raising a child effectively takes a village: Well, as you may have
noticed, our American village is not in very good shape.

82. metaphor

a figure of speech that suggests a non-literal similarity

You’ll be looking into the reach of every metaphor that every discipline offers, and
you’ll be trying to see around their corners.

83. requirement

necessary activity

“How about the science requirements?”

84. confront

oppose, as in hostility or a competition

They have confronted you with scriptures—holy books that, whatever their actual
provenance, have given people what they feel to be wisdom for thousands of years.

85. precipitate

bring about abruptly

Edmund Burke saw common sense as a loosely made, but often profound, collective
work, in which humanity has deposited its hard-earned wisdom—the precipitate of joy
and tears—over time.
86. grade

a position on a scale of intensity or amount or quality

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman.

87. banish

expel, as if by official decree

You must ask whether reason should always rule the passions, philosophers should
always rule the state, and poets should inevitably be banished from a just
commonwealth.

88. job

a specific piece of work required to be done as a duty

For students, that end is a good job.

89. probe

an exploratory action or expedition

And, too, you’ve been tested, probed, looked at up and down and through.

90. abstract

existing only in the mind

The students write their abstract, over-intellectualized essays; the professors grade the
students for their capacity to be abstract and over-intellectual—and often genuinely
smart.

91. arduous

characterized by effort to the point of exhaustion

When they face equally arduous tasks later in life, students will tap their old resources of
determination, and they’ll win.

92. major
greater in scope or effect

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement.

93. virtually

in essence or effect but not in fact

The proof is that virtually no undergraduate students can read and understand their
professors’ scholarly publications.

94. culture

all the knowledge and values shared by a society

We’ve got guns, drugs, two wars, fanatical religions, a slime-based popular culture, and
some politicians who—a little restraint here—aren’t what they might be.

95. proximity

the property of being close together

You have been raised in proximity to common sense, if you’ve been raised at all, and
common sense is something to respect, though not quite—peace unto the formidable
Burke—to revere.

96. conformity

correspondence in form, type, or appearance

The virtue in most request is conformity.

97. predict

tell in advance

He declares that dreams don’t predict the future and that there’s nothing benevolent
about them.

98. profound

situated at or extending to great depth

Embedded in all of the major religions are profound truths.

99. tenure
the term during which some position is held

The work they are compelled to do to advance—get tenure, promotion, raises, outside
offers—is, broadly speaking, scholarly work.

100. hatch

a movable barrier covering an entrance

One night after dinner, he and I were sitting in our kitchen at 58 Clewley Road in
Medford, Massachusetts, hatching plans about the rest of my life.

101. volunteer

a person who performs work done by choice

The professor saves his energies for the profession, while the student saves his for
friends, social life, volunteer work, making connections, and getting in position to clasp
hands on the true grail, the first job.

102. commend

present as worthy of regard, kindness, or confidence

You’re to be commended, and not just you, but the parents, grandparents, uncles, and
aunts who helped get you here.

103. chilly

appreciably or disagreeably cold

For their essays can be brilliant, in a chilly way; they can also be clipped off the Internet,
and often are.

104. realm

a domain in which something is dominant

Let the profs roam free in the realms of pure thought, let yourselves party in the realms
of impure pleasure, and let the student-services gang assert fewer prohibitions and newer
delights for you.

105. provoke

provide the needed stimulus for


Freud has something challenging and provoking to say about virtually every human
aspiration.

106. affirm

declare solemnly and formally as true

I learned that if I wanted to affirm any consequential ideal, I had to talk my way past
Freud.

107. discreet

marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint

The idea that a university education really should have no substantial content, should not
be about what John Keats was disposed to call Soul-making, is one that you might think
professors and university presidents would be discreet about.

108. clasp

hold firmly and tightly

The professor saves his energies for the profession, while the student saves his for
friends, social life, volunteer work, making connections, and getting in position to clasp
hands on the true grail, the first job.

109. faculty

an inherent cognitive or perceptual power of the mind

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman.

110. aversion

a feeling of intense dislike

Self-reliance is its aversion.

111. issuing

the act of providing an item for general use


If universities stopped issuing credentials, half of the clients would be gone by tomorrow
morning, with the remainder following fast behind.

112. potentially

with a possibility of becoming actual

You are, as Foucault might say, the intersection of many evaluative and potentially
determining discourses: you boy, you girl, have been made.

113. create

bring into existence

But the public also senses that because professors don’t pay full-bore attention to
teaching they don’t have to work very hard—they’ve created a massive feather bed for
themselves and called it a university.

114. suppress

to put down by force or authority

You may find your own suppressed and rejected thoughts flowing back to you with an
“alienated majesty.”

115. prone

having a tendency

It’s just that smart people are prone to look into matters to see how they might go about
buttering their toast.

116. emerge

come out into view, as from concealment

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or
woman.

117. pose

assume a bearing as for artistic purposes


(Detached analysis has a place—but, in the end, you’ve got to speak from the heart and
pose the question of truth.)

118. massive

containing a great quantity of matter

Then there are those back-breaking student loans—people leave school as servants,
indentured to pay massive bills, so that first job better be a good one.

119. demonstrate

give an exhibition of to an interested audience

Emerson’s greatness lies not only in showing you how powerful names and customs can
be, but also in demonstrating how exhilarating it is to buck them.

120. controversial

marked by or capable of arousing disagreement

Trying to figure out whether the stuff you’re reading is true or false and being open to
having your life changed is a fraught, controversial activity.

121. injure

cause bodily harm to

But he writes another—in part out of a feeling of injured merit, maybe—and that one
they do buy.

122. discern

detect with the senses

As far as I can discern, the student ethos goes like this: If the professor is so lazy that he
gives the same test every year, it’s okay to go ahead and take advantage—you’ve both
got better things to do.

123. monetary

relating to or involving money

In a culture where the major and determining values are monetary, what else could you
do?
124. prohibition

the action of forbidding

Let the profs roam free in the realms of pure thought, let yourselves party in the realms of
impure pleasure, and let the student-services gang assert fewer prohibitions and newer
delights for you.

125. predecessor

one who precedes you in time

For somehow your predecessors are more yourself than you are.

126. primary

of first rank or importance or value

The idea that the courses you take should be the primary objective of going to college is
tacitly considered absurd.

127. cultivate

adapt something wild to the environment

The reason to read Blake and Dickinson and Freud and Dickens is not to become more
cultivated, or more articulate, or to be someone who, at a cocktail party, is never
embarrassed (or who can embarrass others).

128. invest

lay out money or resources in an enterprise

Whatever the case, no one wants to invest too much in them—for life is elsewhere.

129. benevolent

showing or motivated by sympathy and understanding

He declares that dreams don’t predict the future and that there’s nothing benevolent
about them.

130. ignore

refuse to acknowledge
And all of those teachers and counselors and friends—and the prognosticating uncles, the
dithering aunts, the fathers and mothers with their hopes for your fulfillment—or their
fulfillment in you—should not necessarily be cast aside or ignored.

131. publication

the act of issuing printed materials

The proof is that virtually no undergraduate students can read and understand their
professors’ scholarly publications.

132. energy

forceful exertion

The professor saves his energies for the profession, while the student saves his for
friends, social life, volunteer work, making connections, and getting in position to clasp
hands on the true grail, the first job.

133. perspective

a way of regarding situations or topics

This kind of perspective-altering teaching and learning can cause the things which
administrators fear above all else: trouble, arguments, bad press, etc.

134. compel

force somebody to do something

The work they are compelled to do to advance—get tenure, promotion, raises, outside
offers—is, broadly speaking, scholarly work.

135. reject

refuse to accept or acknowledge

You may find your own suppressed and rejected thoughts flowing back to you with an
“alienated majesty.”

136. exceed

be or do something to a greater degree


We need to see where they fall short and where they exceed the mark, and then to
develop them a little, as the ideas themselves, one comes to see, actually developed
others.

137. rub

move over something with pressure

But what to do with that talent—there was the rub for my father.

138. destructive

causing damage

You have to ask yourself if wildly expressive music (rock and rap and the rest) deranges
the soul in ways that are destructive to its health.

139. joint

junction by which parts or objects are linked together

I continue to hold in mind one of Emerson’s most memorable passages: “Society is a


joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to
each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater.

140. talent

natural abilities or qualities

He had talent: My brother and I each got about half the raw ability he possessed and
that’s taken us through life well enough.

141. deposit

the act of putting something somewhere

Edmund Burke saw common sense as a loosely made, but often profound, collective
work, in which humanity has deposited its hard-earned wisdom—the precipitate of joy
and tears—over time.

142. brilliant

full of light; shining intensely

For their essays can be brilliant, in a chilly way; they can also be clipped off the Internet,
and often are.
143. medical

relating to the study or practice of medicine

They want the certificate that will give them access to Wall Street, or entrance into law or
medical or business school.

144. mock

treat with contempt

And you will have to be tough if the professor mocks you for uttering a sincere question
instead of keeping matters easy for all concerned by staying detached and analytical.

145. objective

the goal intended to be attained

The idea that the courses you take should be the primary objective of going to college is
tacitly considered absurd.

146. devote

dedicate

What if you arrive at college devoted to pre-med, sure that nothing will make you and
your family happier than a life as a physician, only to discover that elementary-school
teaching is where your heart is?

147. content

satisfied or showing satisfaction with things as they are

The idea that a university education really should have no substantial content, should not
be about what John Keats was disposed to call Soul-making, is one that you might think
professors and university presidents would be discreet about.

148. bore

make a hole, especially with a pointed power or hand tool

But the public also senses that because professors don’t pay full- bore attention to
teaching they don’t have to work very hard—they’ve created a massive feather bed for
themselves and called it a university.

149. promotion
the act of raising in rank or position

The work they are compelled to do to advance—get tenure, promotion, raises, outside
offers—is, broadly speaking, scholarly work.

150. contain

hold or have within

What he told me that evening at the Clewley Road kitchen table was true in itself, and it
also contains the germ of an idea about what a university education should be.

151. despise

look down on with disdain

Schopenhauer, who despised belief in transcendent things, nonetheless thought


Christianity to be of inexpressible worth.

152. sustain

lengthen or extend in duration or space

He never had a world of possibilities spread before him, never made sustained contact
with the best that had been thought and said.

153. statistics

a branch of mathematics concerned with quantitative data

You’ll not only question the statistics teacher about what numbers can explain but what
they can’t.

154. facility

a building or place that provides a particular service

So, if you want an education, the odds aren’t with you: The professors are off doing what
they call their own work; the other students, who’ve doped out the way the place runs, are
busy leaving the professors alone and getting themselves in position for bright and
shining futures; the student-services people are trying to keep everyone content, offering
plenty of entertainment and building another state-of-the-art workout facility every few
months.

155. aggressive
characteristic of an enemy or one eager to fight

Right now, if you’re going to get a real education, you may have to be aggressive and
assertive.

156. figure

the form or shape of a person's body

They’ve done a fine job skating on surfaces in high school—the best way to get an
across-the-board outstanding record—and now they’re on campus to cut a few more
figure eights.

157. ignored

disregarded

And all of those teachers and counselors and friends—and the prognosticating uncles, the
dithering aunts, the fathers and mothers with their hopes for your fulfillment—or their
fulfillment in you—should not necessarily be cast aside or ignored.

158. restraint

the act of controlling by holding someone or something back

We’ve got guns, drugs, two wars, fanatical religions, a slime-based popular culture, and
some politicians who—a little restraint here—aren’t what they might be.

159. sage

a mentor in spiritual and philosophical topics

Much more I learned from the sage—about character, about loss, about joy, about writing
and its secret sources, but Emerson most centrally preaches the gospel of self-reliance
and that is what I have tried most to take from him.

160. achievement

the action of accomplishing something

Welcome and congratulations: Getting to the first day of college is a major achievement.

161. contribute

provide
Such students leave and become donors and so, in their own turn, contribute
immeasurably to the university’s standing.

162. inevitably

in such a manner as could not be otherwise

You must ask whether reason should always rule the passions, philosophers should
always rule the state, and poets should inevitably be banished from a just
commonwealth.

163. detected

perceived or discerned

Shoddy work—in which the author cheats, cuts corners, copies from others—is quickly
detected.

164. prospect

the possibility of future success

In terms of their work, students live in the future and not the present; they live with their
prospects for success.

165. assert

declare or affirm solemnly and formally as true

Let the profs roam free in the realms of pure thought, let yourselves party in the realms of
impure pleasure, and let the student-services gang assert fewer prohibitions and newer
delights for you.

166. shrewd

marked by practical hardheaded intelligence

Never has there been a more shrewd and imaginative cartographer of the psyche.

167. odds

the likelihood of a thing occurring

So, if you want an education, the odds aren’t with you: The professors are off doing what
they call their own work; the other students, who’ve doped out the way the place runs, are
busy leaving the professors alone and getting themselves in position for bright and
shining futures; the student-services people are trying to keep everyone content, offering
plenty of entertainment and building another state-of-the-art workout facility every few
months.

168. alter

cause to change; make different

This kind of perspective- altering teaching and learning can cause the things which
administrators fear above all else: trouble, arguments, bad press, etc.

169. concern

something that interests you because it is important

And you will have to be tough if the professor mocks you for uttering a sincere question
instead of keeping matters easy for all concerned by staying detached and analytical.

170. comprehend

get the meaning of something

He gave me the chance to see what I was all about, and if it proved to be different from
him, proved even to be something he didn’t like or entirely comprehend, then he’d deal
with it.

171. survive

continue in existence after

To merely survive in this American village and to win a place in the entering class has
taken a lot of grit on your part.

172. future

the time yet to come

In terms of their work, students live in the future and not the present; they live with their
prospects for success.

173. adequate

having the requisite qualities or resources to meet a task


Because every subject you study is a language and since you may adopt one of these
languages as your own, you’ll want to know how to speak it expertly and also how it fails
to deal with those concerns for which it has no adequate words.

174. sublime

of high moral or intellectual value

Reading the great writers, you may have the experience that Longinus associated with the
sublime: You feel that you have actually created the text yourself.

175. intensity

high level or degree

After the kid-samurai episode, the chair of my department not unsympathetically


suggested that this was the sort of incident that could happen when you brought a certain
intensity to teaching.

176. crude

belonging to an early stage of technical development

I came to college with few resources, but one of them was an understanding, however
crude, of how I might use my opportunities there.

177. associate

bring or come into action

Reading the great writers, you may have the experience that Longinus associated with
the sublime: You feel that you have actually created the text yourself.

178. ability

having the means or skills to do something

The coach knows what your athletic prospects are, the guidance office has a sheaf of test
scores that relegate you to this or that ability quadrant, and your teachers have got you
pegged.

179. lecture

a speech that is open to the public


The world wants him to write more, lecture, travel more, and will pay him for his efforts,
and he likes this a good deal.

180. experience

the content of observation or participation in an event

My father had some experience with lawyers, and with policemen, too; he was not well-
disposed toward either.

181. undertake

enter upon an activity or enterprise

If you do not undertake it, you risk leading a life of desperation—maybe quiet, maybe,
in time, very loud—and I am not exaggerating.

182. text

the words of something written

Reading the great writers, you may have the experience that Longinus associated with the
sublime: You feel that you have actually created the text yourself.

183. adopt

take into one's family

Because every subject you study is a language and since you may adopt one of these
languages as your own, you’ll want to know how to speak it expertly and also how it fails
to deal with those concerns for which it has no adequate words.

184. esteem

the condition of being honored

One kid I knew (and rather liked) threatened on his blog to mince his dear and esteemed
professor (me) with a samurai sword for the crime of having taught a boring class.

185. scholar

a learned person

The people who do this work have highly developed intellectual powers, and they push
themselves hard to reach a certain standard: That the results have almost no practical
relevance to the students, the public, or even, frequently, to other scholars is a central
element in the tragicomedy that is often academia.

186. accomplish

achieve with effort

I was about to go off to college, a feat no one in my family had accomplished in living
memory.

187. function

what something is used for

The primary function of Yale University, it’s recently been said, is to create prosperous
alumni so as to enrich Yale University.

188. reflect

throw or bend back from a surface

These essays are honest: Their footnotes reflect real reading, real assimilation, and real
dedication.

189. commit

engage in or perform

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or
assault plain and simple.

190. substantial

real; having a material or factual existence

The idea that a university education really should have no substantial content, should not
be about what John Keats was disposed to call Soul-making, is one that you might think
professors and university presidents would be discreet about.

191. sustained

continued at length without interruption or weakening

He never had a world of possibilities spread before him, never made sustained contact
with the best that had been thought and said.
192. perpetual

continuing forever or indefinitely

He was—and is—a perpetual challenge and goad.

193. course

a connected series of events or actions or developments

But until I had the reincarnation stuff from a solid source, I better get to work and pick
out some English classes from the course catalog.

194. depart

go away or leave

This view informed an address that Richard Brodhead gave to the senior class at Yale
before he departed to become president of Duke.

195. fundamental

serving as an essential component

No matter what anyone says this work has precious little to do with the fundamentals of
teaching.

196. evolution

sequence of events involved in the development of a species

You’ll be the one who challenges your biology teacher about the intellectual conflict
between evolution and creationist thinking.

197. formidable

extremely impressive in strength or excellence

You have been raised in proximity to common sense, if you’ve been raised at all, and
common sense is something to respect, though not quite—peace unto the formidable
Burke—to revere.

198. harsh

disagreeable to the senses


One does not need to be as harsh as Schopenhauer to understand the use of religion, even
if one does not believe in an otherworldly god.

199. conceive

have the idea for

When you read Plato, you’ll probably learn about his metaphysics and his politics and his
way of conceiving the soul.

200. source

the place where something begins

But until I had the reincarnation stuff from a solid source, I better get to work and pick
out some English classes from the course catalog.

201. decade

a period of 10 years

He wasn’t invited back for decades.

202. toil

work hard

The student who eschews medical school to follow his gift for teaching small children
spends his twenties in low-paying but pleasurable and soul-rewarding toil.

203. philosopher

a specialist in the investigation of existence and knowledge

You must ask whether reason should always rule the passions, philosophers should
always rule the state, and poets should inevitably be banished from a just commonwealth.

204. invisible

impossible or nearly impossible to see

“No!” he said, filling the air with an invisible forest of exclamation points.)

205. discourse

an extended communication dealing with some particular topic


You are, as Foucault might say, the intersection of many evaluative and potentially
determining discourses: you boy, you girl, have been made.

206. plenty

a full supply

So, if you want an education, the odds aren’t with you: The professors are off doing what
they call their own work; the other students, who’ve doped out the way the place runs, are
busy leaving the professors alone and getting themselves in position for bright and
shining futures; the student-services people are trying to keep everyone content, offering
plenty of entertainment and building another state-of-the-art workout facility every few
months.

207. direction

a line leading to a place or point

In saying that, he (like my father) hinted in the direction of a profound and true theory of
learning.

208. restore

bring back into original existence, function, or position

Education is about finding out what form of work for you is close to being play—work
you do so easily that it restores you as you go.

209. necessity

the condition of being essential or indispensable

To be poor in America is to be a failure—it’s to be without decent health care, without


basic necessities, often without dignity.

210. hint

an indirect suggestion

In saying that, he (like my father) hinted in the direction of a profound and true theory of
learning.

211. risk

a source of danger
If you do not undertake it, you risk leading a life of desperation—maybe quiet, maybe, in
time, very loud—and I am not exaggerating.

212. luxury

something that is an indulgence rather than a necessity

The quest at the center of a liberal-arts education is not a luxury quest; it’s a necessity
quest.

213. analysis

abstract separation of a whole into its constituent parts

(Detached analysis has a place—but, in the end, you’ve got to speak from the heart and
pose the question of truth.)

214. vigorous

characterized by forceful and energetic action or activity

But when we expend our energies in rightful ways, Robert Frost observed, we stay whole
and vigorous and we don’t weary.

215. intellect

knowledge and mental ability

Of course, given your intellect and discipline, you can still probably be one.

216. decline

grow worse

You’ll ask your history teacher about whether there is a design to our history, whether
we’re progressing or declining, or whether, in the words of a fine recent play, The
History Boys, history’s “just one fuckin’ thing after another.”

217. rejected

rebuffed (by a lover) without warning

You may find your own suppressed and rejected thoughts flowing back to you with an
“alienated majesty.”

218. influence
a power to affect persons or events

This was my own experience reading the two writers who have influenced me the most,
Sigmund Freud and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

219. surrender

relinquish possession or control over

I continue to hold in mind one of Emerson’s most memorable passages: “Society is a


joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to
each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater.

220. center

an area that is in the middle of some larger region

The quest at the center of a liberal-arts education is not a luxury quest; it’s a necessity
quest.

221. instruction

activities that impart knowledge or skill

He’s always behind on his student-loan payments; he still lives in a house with four other
guys (not all of whom got proper instructions on how to clean a bathroom).

222. balance

harmonious arrangement or relation of parts within a whole

You must inquire of yourself if balanced calm is the most desirable human state.

223. inevitable

incapable of being avoided or prevented

I need the wherewithal, as Emerson did, to say what’s on my mind and to take the
inevitable hits.

224. absurd

inconsistent with reason or logic or common sense

The idea that the courses you take should be the primary objective of going to college is
tacitly considered absurd.
225. determination

the act of finding out the properties of something

When they face equally arduous tasks later in life, students will tap their old resources of
determination, and they’ll win.

226. arrive

reach a destination

What if you arrive at college devoted to pre-med, sure that nothing will make you and
your family happier than a life as a physician, only to discover that elementary-school
teaching is where your heart is?

227. merit

the quality of being deserving

But he writes another—in part out of a feeling of injured merit, maybe—and that one
they do buy.

228. injured

harmed

But he writes another—in part out of a feeling of injured merit, maybe—and that one
they do buy.

229. access

the right to enter

They want the certificate that will give them access to Wall Street, or entrance into law or
medical or business school.

230. institution

a custom that has been an important feature of some group

To get an education, you’re probably going to have to fight against the institution that
you find yourself in—no matter how prestigious it may be.

231. declare

state emphatically and authoritatively


He declares that dreams don’t predict the future and that there’s nothing benevolent
about them.

232. idle

not in action or at work

The question “Who do they think you are at home?” is never an idle one.

233. instructions

a manual explaining how to install or operate a device

He’s always behind on his student-loan payments; he still lives in a house with four other
guys (not all of whom got proper instructions on how to clean a bathroom).

234. tradition

a specific practice of long standing

They’ve given you family traditions—you’ve learned the ways of your tribe and your
community.

235. purchase

acquire by means of a financial transaction

The Internet is amok with services selling term papers and those services exist, capitalism
being what it is, because people purchase the papers—lots of them.

236. significant

rich in implication

Freud challenges nearly every significant human ideal.

237. channel

a deep and relatively narrow body of water

If you advance in the direction of someone else’s dreams—if you want to live someone
else’s life rather than yours—then get a TV for every room, buy yourself a lifetime
supply of your favorite quaff, crank up the porn channel, and groove away.

238. normal
being approximately average or within certain limits

But then interest dwindles and matters go back to normal.

239. conflict

an open clash between two opposing groups

You’ll be the one who challenges your biology teacher about the intellectual conflict
between evolution and creationist thinking.

240. deny

declare untrue; contradict

My father was a gruff man, but also a generous one, so that night at the kitchen table at
58 Clewley Road he made an effort to let me have the chance that had been denied to
him by both fate and character.

241. victim

an unfortunate person who suffers from adverse circumstances

Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and
swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

242. render

give or supply

They gave words to thoughts and feelings that I had never been able to render myself.

243. element

a substance that cannot be separated into simpler substances

The people who do this work have highly developed intellectual powers, and they push
themselves hard to reach a certain standard: That the results have almost no practical
relevance to the students, the public, or even, frequently, to other scholars is a central
element in the tragicomedy that is often academia.

244. corner

the point where three areas or surfaces meet or intersect


Shoddy work—in which the author cheats, cuts corners, copies from others—is quickly
detected.

245. opportunity

a possibility from a favorable combination of circumstances

You can get a terrific education in America now—there are astonishing opportunities at
almost every college—but the education will not be presented to you wrapped and
bowed.

246. utter

without qualification

And you will have to be tough if the professor mocks you for uttering a sincere question
instead of keeping matters easy for all concerned by staying detached and analytical.

247. intense

possessing a distinctive feature to a heightened degree

Scholarship, even if pretentious and almost unreadable, is nonetheless labor- intense.

248. confess

admit to a wrongdoing

I confessed that I was.

249. possess

have ownership of

He had talent: My brother and I each got about half the raw ability he possessed and
that’s taken us through life well enough.

250. incident

a single distinct event

After the kid-samurai episode, the chair of my department not unsympathetically


suggested that this was the sort of incident that could happen when you brought a certain
intensity to teaching.

251. tour
a route all the way around a particular place or area

If I had such info, pre-law would be fine, and maybe even a tour through invertebrate
biology could also be tossed in.

252. office

place of business where professional duties are performed

Black limousines pulled up in front of his office and disgorged decorously suited
negotiators.

253. liberal

showing or characterized by broad-mindedness

The quest at the center of a liberal-arts education is not a luxury quest; it’s a necessity
quest.

254. capacity

capability to perform or produce

The students write their abstract, over-intellectualized essays; the professors grade the
students for their capacity to be abstract and over-intellectual—and often genuinely
smart.

255. goal

the state of affairs that a plan is intended to achieve

Students come to college with the goal of a diploma in mind—what happens in between,
especially in classrooms, is often of no deep and determining interest to them.

256. essential

basic and fundamental

The battle is to make such writers one’s own, to winnow them out and to find their
essential truths.

257. observe

watch attentively
But when we expend our energies in rightful ways, Robert Frost observed, we stay whole
and vigorous and we don’t weary.

258. exist

have a presence

The Internet is amok with services selling term papers and those services exist, capitalism
being what it is, because people purchase the papers—lots of them.

259. remark

make or write a comment on

At the time I found his remark a tad detached, but maybe he was right.

260. shape

a perceptual structure

It’s been said that raising a child effectively takes a village: Well, as you may have
noticed, our American village is not in very good shape.

261. attend

be present

Then I had better study literature, unless I had inside information to the effect that
reincarnation wasn’t just hype, and I’d be able to attend college thirty or forty times.

262. blame

an accusation that one is responsible for some misdeed

And how can we blame them?

263. simple

having few parts; not complex or complicated or involved

Colleges are even leery of disciplining guys who have committed sexual assault, or
assault plain and simple.

264. absolute

perfect or complete or pure


We’re drawn to them because we hunger for absolute authority.

265. generation

group of genetically related organisms in a line of descent

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman.

266. solid

not soft or yielding to pressure

But until I had the reincarnation stuff from a solid source, I better get to work and pick
out some English classes from the course catalog.

267. labor

any piece of work that is undertaken or attempted

Scholarship, even if pretentious and almost unreadable, is nonetheless labor-intense.

268. precious

of high worth or cost

No matter what anyone says this work has precious little to do with the fundamentals of
teaching.

269. require

have need of

Doing so requires energy from the professor—which is better spent on other matters.

270. ease

freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort

To ease your grief, society offers alcohol, television, drugs, divorce, and buying, buying,
buying what you don’t need.

271. severe
unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment

(The class was a little boring—I had a damned cold—but the punishment seemed a bit
severe.)

272. divine

a clergyman or other person in religious orders

Occasionally—for you will need some help in fleshing-out the answers—you may have
to prod your professors to see if they take the text at hand—in this case the divine and
disturbing Plato—to be true.

273. journal

a daily written record of experiences and observations

One can slave for a year or two on a single article for publication in this or that refereed
journal.

274. devoted

zealous in allegiance or affection

What if you arrive at college devoted to pre-med, sure that nothing will make you and
your family happier than a life as a physician, only to discover that elementary-school
teaching is where your heart is?

275. surrounded

confined on all sides

Amidst the impressive college buildings, in company with a high-powered faculty,


surrounded by the best of your generation, all you need is to keep doing what you’ve
done before: Work hard, get good grades, listen to your teachers, get along with the
people around you, and you’ll emerge in four years as an educated young man or woman.

276. request

express the need or desire for; ask for

The virtue in most request is conformity.

277. entrance

something that provides access to get in


They want the certificate that will give them access to Wall Street, or entrance into law
or medical or business school.

278. design

the act of working out the form of something

You’ll ask your history teacher about whether there is a design to our history, whether
we’re progressing or declining, or whether, in the words of a fine recent play, The
History Boys, history’s “just one fuckin’ thing after another.”

279. terror

an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety

Instead of being punished, these guys frequently stay around, strolling the quad and
swilling the libations, an affront (and sometimes a terror) to their victims.

280. exercise

the activity of exerting muscles to keep fit

Periodically the public gets exercised about this situation, and there are articles in the
national news.

281. brief

of short duration or distance

The dean of students laughed lightly when I suggested that this behavior might be
grounds for sending the student on a brief vacation.

282. practical

guided by experience and observation rather than theory

The people who do this work have highly developed intellectual powers, and they push
themselves hard to reach a certain standard: That the results have almost no practical
relevance to the students, the public, or even, frequently, to other scholars is a central
element in the tragicomedy that is often academia.

283. contact

the act of touching physically


He never had a world of possibilities spread before him, never made sustained contact
with the best that had been thought and said.

284. virtue

the quality of doing what is right

The virtue in most request is conformity.

285. theory

a belief that can guide behavior

In saying that, he (like my father) hinted in the direction of a profound and true theory of
learning.