In this essay, David Gruenewald weaves a narrative of his education and teaching together with Henry David Thoreau's comments on education, and with stories of Thoreau's own teaching and learning. Gruenewald's personal narrative begins with the discovery of Thoreau as a rare voice of social critique in the education of a typical middle-class adolescent, and then moves to a personal critique of the social context of schooling and the conventions of schooling from the author's perspective as a student and a high school teacher. The second part of the essay explores three teaching themes found both in Thoreau's writing and in biographical treatments of him: experimentation, wholeness, and the primacy of place. Gruenewald discusses each of these themes in terms of Thoreau's approach to teaching, learning, and living. Arguing against the culture of prescription that dominates teaching and learning in schools and colleges of education, he concludes not with more prescription, but with the Thoreauvian plea to reexamine everything we have been told.

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