What is clear to me now in a way that was not before I found Wendell Berry is that the placelessness of modern industrial thinking has failed us—culturally and ecologically. And it has failed us educationally. When I began the doctoral program, I thought data analytics and greater efficiency would save higher education. By the time I completed my dissertation, I could see that what my students need is not big data. What they need are small gestures—gestures of kindness and encouragement, gestures of interest and individual care. Placeless, generic education does not serve. Like any human endeavor, education should be something more aligned with agrarianism and less with industrialism.
Moreover, in a time when our political rhetoric has become both divisive and derisive, when our differences are too easily defined and dismissed as a split between urban and rural—a divide of our very places—Berry’s thinking finds the connections through our shared humanity. In his analysis and portrayal of his place, he enables us to understand our own places in a fresh way. Just as each school or each classroom is made up of uniquely individual students, Berry’s writings remind us that even the large places of the world are made up of small places that need to be loved and defended. In this, we can find what connects us.
Read all of "Finding My Place by Finding Wendell Berry" by Jane M. Schreck at On Second Thought Magazine.