When I went to Concord Academy in 11th grade I took a course on Concord authors and discovered Thoreau. By the time I was in college I was reading his journals, checked out from the library in the 1906 edition with photographs by H. W. Gleason. I went with my parents to one meeting of the Thoreau Society when I was in college, but I stopped reading Thoreau when I went to graduate school and my mother got a job working on the new edition of Thoreau's complete works.
My parents have been very involved with the Thoreau Society since they moved back to Concord, so I worried about my mother going to the next annual meeting without my father. My daughter read a biography of Thoreau as the book she picked for school this quarter, so I decided she and I should go to the Thoreau Society annual meeting in July and support my mother.
Being too much of an academic, and having enjoyed talking about Thoreau in my new environmental history course, I went ahead and proposed to give a paper. My proposal has been tentatively accepted:
"Thoreau: Technology and the Wild"It will be interesting to see how much of a stretch it feels to present at such a meeting.
This paper examines student reactions to Thoreau's ideas in a college-freshman-level course on environmental history designed to meet a general education requirement in Science and Technology in Society. The middle section of the course uses Roderick Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind and seeks to lead students to examine their own assumptions both about wilderness and about civilization. Thoreau's ideas about technology in particular are a real stretch for the average college student today (for example "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end."). The goal of Science and Technology in Society courses is to prepare students to be better citizens in a technological world; Thoreau's ideas push them to stand back from the rush of the world they live in and think about their own values both about technology and about wilderness.