“You’re a gentleman and a scholar,” the man told me as I handed him his pizza, 2 liter of Pepsi, and side of chicken strips and potato wedges (a.k.a. “jo-jos”). I awkwardly said, “You, too,” and turned around to my delivery car.
Ever since that night back in high school, I’ve always been intrigued by that phrase – mostly that last word, “scholar.” In my time in college, I came across this word quite a bit and I began to treat this word with a high regard: It’s not just a “student” of one subject or another, but rather a well-educated student – one who could easily teach classes on that particular subject.
What I find interesting, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a professor or anyone with a PhD. It could be a college graduate or maybe even a high school graduate – anyone who is knowledgeable in a particular subject beyond the average person. Strangely, this hit me on my way home from Starbucks tonight.
I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I’ve gotten used to saying, “I’m not a student anymore.” Every time I’ve said this, though, it’s been in reference to how I’ve just graduated and am no longer a student at U of O. By definition, though, I could theoretically be considered a “scholar” if given the right topic in the right setting. Not that anyone would call me such a thing; I’d prefer it if they wouldn’t. But by the definition of the word it could happen.
I really don’t want it to, though.
Why? Because I don’t think I would be learning very well if I was teaching. Some people can still learn as they teach; those are probably the better teachers. But I know that for myself, I often have the tendency of sticking to my own opinion if given the platform of “teacher.” Not to say that I would always stick to my own knowledge and never learn anything. But if constantly referred to as a teacher, my own learning capabilities would be severely hindered.
One definition of “scholar” actually does mean “student,” but how we’ve come to use the term throughout the years, it’s usually referring to someone with a particular expertise in a specific subject. For instance, one of my favorite professors, Dr. Daniel Falk, is considered a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, but even then it’s too broad. His expertise is even more refined than that; his focus is on the liturgical texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But if you wanted a lecture on the New Testament and how it came to be, he could still give you ten lectures on the Gospels alone.
His knowledge in many biblical studies subjects is beyond that of the average person. In more ways than one, he’s a “scholar.” But the cool thing about Dr. Falk – what makes him a great teacher – is that he doesn’t stop learning. He’s not the only one, no; I’ve had a handful of professors quite like him. I just use him as an example because in the two seminars I had with him last winter, I could really see his desire to learn.
So I guess what I’m saying is that I never want to stop learning. I never want to become so “knowledgeable” in a particular subject that I stop letting my opinions be reworked and challenged. Francis Bacon once said, “Knowledge is power,” but I think knowledge loses its power if it stays the same. If nothing is added to it or redeveloped within it, then I think whoever possesses it will become nothing more than another book on the shelf. Books, unlike people, do not change once published.
What does my degree mean, then? Shouldn’t it mean that I’ve learned all one can learn and is now able to turn around and teach the current students? No. It means I’m now a professional student – equipped with the proper skills and know-how to continue asking questions and seeking out answers. What my degree means to me is that I have a set of skills that allows me to never stop learning.
I may not have anymore assignments, quizzes, or exams, but that does not mean I can’t still be a student. It does not mean I can’t still be studying certain subjects into the late hours of the night. It doest not mean that I must now put down the pencil, turn off the laptop, or close the book. It means I must do all of those things in any direction I choose.