Walker Percy?S “Loss Of The Creature” Essay, Research Paper
The Independent Education
As a college student, I am thirsting for knowledge that will broaden my horizons. Ironically, I am not able to quench my thirst exclusively in the institute of higher learning that I attend. I believe society’s outlook on education is incorrect. Webster’s Dictionary defines that to educate is “to train by formal instruction and supervised practice.” Consequently, society views the process as educators giving knowledge to the students. Contrastingly, I believe education should be more of an independent process, assisted by educators. Students should pursue knowledge, instead of receiving it.
In Walker Percy’s The Loss of the Creature, the institution of education is closely examined. Percy explains,” A young Falkland Islander walking along a beach and spying a dead dogfish and going to work on it with his jackknife has, in a fashion wholly unprovided in modern educational theory, a great advantage over the Scarsdale high school pupil who finds the dogfish on his laboratory desk. Similarly the citizen of Huxley’s Brave New World who stumbles across a volume of Shakespeare in some vine-grown ruins and squats on a potsherd to read it is in a fairer way of getting at a sonnet than the Harvard sophomore taking English Poetry II. (Percy, 6)” The essential point of his essay is that the value of an experience, such as learning, is inversely proportional to both the strength of any preconceptions dealing with it, and the number of people simultaneously taking part in the experience.
To give an example, a young student who stumbles across a copy of Loss of the Creature by Percy in the library will have a far more valuable experience than any one of seventy people in a freshman year honors class.
Many factors contribute to the young student’s ability to experience such a great encounter while reading Loss of the Creature. One factor is the pure randomness and unexpectedness of the situation. Consequently, the student has no preconceptions about the essay. The honors class, on the other hand, is given ideas by the professors who made the assignment and the upperclassmen who have previously read the essay. Finally, the individualality of the incident contributes to the young student’s experience. By experiencing the essay by himself, he is prevented from being influenced by the reactions of others. The factors that prevent the class of students from having the same experience are defined by Percy as the “educational package.”
Theorists, scientists, and teachers define the educational package that consists of subjects and theories. Percy states, “The educator whose business is to teach students biology or poetry is unaware of the whole ensemble of relations which exist between the students and the dogfish and between the student and the Shakespeare sonnet. (Percy, 6)” The educators believe in the predefined package, and the student who does not challenge the theories or subjects, naively and complacently accepts them as truth.
Percy also explains that in order to truly learn something, one must salvage the knowledge from the educational package. He states that to escape from receiving the educational package, the student must first realize that he is receiving the package. In other words, the student must strive to be a sovereign individual, look past what is actually being presented.
Searching for a sovereign experience is a difficult process, and though it is possible, it is far easier to fall in line with the masses and participate in consumerism. The institution of education makes it easy to become a very active consumer. A student’s education is somewhat spoon fed to him a few hours a week in a lecture hall. Does this method of learning not dull the appetite to learn? Receiving an education has become more of a requirement of society, rather than a desire to enlighten oneself. The sovereign experience occurs when a student studies because he is compelled to, not because he has to in order to fulfill a class assignment.
Percy’s views on education definitely apply to modern times. Students attend school to get a degree. Sadly, the majority study just enough to pass the course. Ironically, financial prosperity in the future is one of the major motives in pursuing an education, not the pursuit of knowledge. As students, we should take Percy’s advice and look beyond the package that is presented to us on a daily basis. Of course, we cannot drop out of school and merely educate ourselves. Consequently, we should make the extra effort to actually grasp the information we study. Also, we should think for ourselves and not accept the professors’ lectures as absolute truths. One can only be a “sovereign knower” if one unwraps the “educational package” and explores the gifts inside. The individual’s supreme power comes from knowing more than others because of the tenacity he has to break through the packages.
In The Loss of the Creature, Percy shows that people tend to accept things throughout their lives without questioning anything. By allowing people to recognize some of the packaging throughout society, Percy is trying to prevent the world from being completely static. Percy encourages every human to be inventive and creative, not a consumer who misses out on the truly majestic aspects of life. Similarly, Albert Schweitzer explains, “As soon as man does not take his existence for granted, but beholds it as something unfathomably mysterious, thought begins.” Percy and Schweitzer give a new but logical viewpoint of education. As Schweitzer expressed, our entire existence on the planet is amazing. Therefore, we should not take anything for granted. We should use the senses and abilities we have to make the most of every aspect of our lives, especially our education. I can only hope that Percy has inspired my fellow classmates as much as he has me. Now when I sit in class, I will try to discover all of the majestic truths that I have neglected to notice before. Ripping open the “educational package” is the first step in pursuing an independent but enlightening pursuit of knowledge.