Fly on the Wall—Remembering to Remember

March's Possibilities and Pitfalls

March for millions of students means one thing: spring break! The countdown begins as soon as the calendar switches but, for we at AU, our academic campaign grinds on with contract dates looming ever larger over our personal existential horizon.

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar might have experienced similar strain when a soothsayer addressed him thus:

  • “Soothsayer: Caesar!
  • Caesar: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.
  • Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar: What man is that?
  • Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.
  • Cassius: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
  • Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.
  • Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
  • Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass” (Shakespeare, online).

As with Caesar’s nearness to his future assassin, Brutus, we face mortal threats to our valiant study regime as spring break approaches.  It behoves us to beware!

We’re pros at AU at flexibility, but disruptions can still be difficult.  We render risk unto ourselves, then, if we do not heed the Ides of March and their 21st Century specifics in terms of adjusting to the spring break schedules of any little ones in our lives.

Realizing that things are going to be a little different around here in a couple of weeks is something that anyone whose life combines kids and an AU course or three has to accept.  But this is a winnable battle!  And it can be a fun one too; extra time with young ones can lead to new avenues of academic intrigue and new forms of that ubiquitous, if elusive concept: the study break.  Plus, new questions and considerations may emerge whenever there’s dashes and dollops of excitement.  And hey, spring break is a pretty exciting time if you’re a young scholar.

Learning and Time: The Timelessness of Knowledge-Acquisition

Spring break also carries a deeper significance; it begs we ask a timeless question; what did we really learn in school?  After all, so many youthful school memories don’t include our actual attendance in class.  Moments playing at recess with or without friends, resting at home during strikes or snowfall, or even sick days comfortable on a couch may stand out as memorable school experiences.  What’s absent in many memories, our heinies in a classroom, suddenly seems pretty important.  Lots must have happened in those thousands of hours of scholarly instruction and yet memories are fleeting.  Were we somehow absent even as we sat in those chairs?  I certainly remember a teacher or two calling out “Earth to Jason…” We must beware of the spaces, shortfalls, and soft underbellies of our AU studies lest we drift into dreamland when distractions arise.

The essential possibility of absence itself, or its actual impossibility, was addressed in ancient Greece by Parmenides.  He recounted a meeting of the minds between himself and a goddess whose key instruction was “there is no not so” (Parmenides in Hestir, online).  Even a vacuum in space contains, well, a vacuum—a definition of itself.  That’s something rather than nothing!  Like a teacher jokingly leaning over a student and asking if anyone’s home in there, we know that we were at least partly present in school all those years.  We may not feel like we remember much but here we are now as University students.  So, with kids around for spring break, it’s a chance for us to be there and present with them and in our studies in a new way.  Everything that happens while we work on AU material has the potential to change our lives; there’s no going outside the classroom for us, and luckily this a choice rather than a claustrophobic nightmare!  Let’s heed the soothsayer of concern over study schedules this month; as such, opportunities emerge.

Out of those murky memories of school years we’ve learned to function as relatively normal human beings.  Blake Hestir of Notre Dame University reviews an analysis of Parmenides and notes how the latter proclaimed that to understand truth “one must first clear away misconceptions about the nature of ‘is’” (Hestir, online).  Are we in school or not?  And when do the two meet? Is school ever not in session for us?  At AU, life and schooling intertwine; we’re never not there, as it were.  Thus, being in school is fundamentally a state of mind rather than a state of corporeal being.  Bottoms in chairs are rendered irrelevant.  At AU our status as students transcends any classroom and can permeate every facet of our life.  I can attest that fire pit gatherings with friends included whole new lines of thought and questioning when I first undertook CLTS325, for instance.  Sometimes at AU all of life becomes grist for the mill; in this way spring break includes education aplenty for students young and old.

Memories and their Timelessness

Being as how we remember relatively little about all those years in class, what will we remember from our time at AU?  Plato, speaking through Socrates as he remembered him, wrote that “all enquiry and all learning is but recollection” (Plato, online).   In this way, even if we despised going to school only to happily return as AU students, we may discover what we love about learning and have since forgotten.  AU is about growth and development, after all, and, even if we don’t remember learning much in our elementary classrooms, we developed anyway.  Like osmosis that drives many body processes, or in the way water sucks its way up a pantleg by capillary action, we learned just by showing up and being there.

What makes AU special is the absence of the usual educational boundaries.  No more teachers’ dirty looks.  And when school’s out for others it’s still in for us because we get to work from home.  Whereas there were an awful lot of rules as we grew up, and each teacher would have a prescribed formula to accomplish such mundane details as where on our piece of paper to write our name and the date, much of our AU experience is left up to us.  We’re free but never quite out of the classroom.  What matters at AU is what we produce and how we demonstrate that we’ve learned the course material.   In this way we are released from much of the worst excesses of education as personified by egoistic instructors and toxic peers.

Back to the Essence of Learning

Although we don’t remember it, our early formative years are characterized by an essentially solitary process of knowledge acquisition.  We learned to walk and talk alone, or at least without a formal classroom, and so in this way we at AU return to this most primordial playpen of knowledge acquisition.  Maybe Plato and Marie Antoinette were on to something; maybe AU is about remembering how to learn, this most personal of processes.

As March begins and we contend with the potentially-disrupting presence of Spring Breakers, let’s remember that the joy of not being in school is a big part of what makes AU a great way to learn!

Antoinette, M.  Top 24 Quotes by Marie Antoinette.  Azquotes.  Retrieved from
Hestir, B.  (2015).  Eric Sanday: A Study of Dialectic in Plato’s Parmenides.  Notre Dame Philosophical Review.  Retrieved from
Plato.  Philosophical and Psychological Foundations of Education.  University of Kentucky.  Retrieved from
Shakespeare.  The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.  Open Source Shakespeare.  Retrieved from