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Only a Tourist

The day before our seniors boarded the bus for Europe, their 12th-grade humanities teacher read them an excerpt from Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind. In it, Bloom writes: “A trip to Florence or to Athens is one thing for a young man who hopes to meet…his Socrates in the Agora, and quite another for the one who goes without such aching need. The latter is only a tourist, the former is looking for completion.” His charge to the class was to not ‘just be tourists’, but to approach this trip as an opportunity for fulfillment: a culmination of all they’ve learned up to this point.

This led me to pull up the definition of a tourist. A tourist is someone who is traveling or visiting a place for pleasure. Today’s culture tells us that this is the ideal. The goal of anything, vacations included, is to seek pleasure and personal fulfillment. We find ourselves asking questions like, “Will this make me happy?” or “Is this the easiest option?” or “Which choice is the most fun?”

This same worldview has extended to the classroom. We find ourselves asking, “What can I (or my child) do with this learning?” when we should be asking, “What will this learning do to me (or my child)?” The goal isn’t personal fulfillment, the goal is personal transformation.

Whether it’s a group of seniors encountering the Colosseum, the Catacombs, or the Sistine Chapel for the first time, or a group of 7th graders opening the first page of The Hobbit; I hope they are transformed by the beauty and wonder of it all. What would it look like to approach the school day (and the senior trip) with transformation in mind? To not be ‘only a tourist‘, but to be looking for completion.

1 thought on “Only a Tourist”

  1. Romans 12 2
    Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may know the perfect will of God!
    Great writing.

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