A Very Blessing Through All One's Days

Thoughts for the new academic year


When I was a high school senior looking at schools, I visited Yale for a student weekend. I didn't end up at Yale, but a plaque I saw in the Jonathan Edwards College dining hall made a deep impression on me. I don't know who Robert Chapman Bates was, but his words influenced the course of my life. As I'm about to start my 28th year as a professor (and my 15th at St. John's), his quote still rings true for me. Here it is, for all the other professors who follow this blog. Happy new semester, everyone:

But if you can't help it, do go into teaching

For it is the only profession I know of

In which even discouragement and defeat are sweet;

In which the unattained goal is a reward;

In which the not-complete failure is a triumph

And a very blessing through all one's days.

— Robert Chapman Bates, Fellow of this College 1933-1942

NEXT: New in Newsweek: "A Supreme Court divided cannot stand. John Roberts must step up or step off."

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  1. Many teachers are among America’s best.

    I can name every teacher I had through sixth grade. Some of them saved me from an inadequate home and lousy hometown. I can name most of my teachers through high school. Most of them were good, some were much better.

    America’s progress and greatness are founded on education, especially public education. When our society falters by arranging lesser education for children based on parental circumstance, teachers often respond by buying supplies from their modest compensation.

    There might be a more admirable profession than teaching.

    Might not.

    Thank you, teachers.

    1. I had many fine college professors, one of whom is still a friend four decades later. I had some outstanding law professors, too.

    2. “Teachers often respond by buying supplies from their modest compensation.”

      Dost deem thy vessel needs gilding,
      And the dockyard forbear to supply;
      Place thy hand in thy pocket and gild her,
      There be those who have risen thereby.

  2. Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
    but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.
    ~Proverbs 20:15

  3. The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail (Conscience Press, Ravenna OH, 1999) by Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt

    With exceptional teachers I was able to overcome the corruption of American government education. Preeminently those inspired by Alexander Meiklejohn.

    1. The book alleges that changes gradually brought into the American public education system work to eliminate the influences of a child’s parents, and mold the child into a member of the proletariat in preparation for a socialist-collectivist world of the future


  4. Disaffected, inconsequential, modern-America-hating clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties — and the Volokh Conspiracy’s target audience!

  5. Robert Chapman Bates was an assistant professor of French.

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