Would you believe my Liberal Arts and the World of Work course featured decorated UVA professor of German, Gordon Stewart, facilitating a discussion on Der Erlkonig, a famous German poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe? What, you ask, are the lessons about the world of work in Der Erlkonig? Well, none I thought. The purpose of the class was to expose the class to German literature through an outstanding professor who loves German lit and his craft of teaching. Additionally, through a short assignment and class discussion, students might be exposed to and required to exercise the critical liberal arts competencies of critical reading, analysis, research, and written and oral communication.
The bonus extra was a few students ability to connect the dots in ways that perhaps von Goethe and Gordon Stewart had not imagined. Here are a few quotes:
I think that as we get older and seek desperately for stability and safety in economic ventures and lifestyle choices, we lose more and more sight of the childhood dreams.
The future wants outside the box thinkers who see magic where others see a pen and paper
One should never dismiss the observations of another, no matter how impossible they seem.
The boy as his own life to live and his father cannot make all of his life decisions with the security of his own hands.
Throughout the college years, young adults will experience outside forces that will add stress and frustration to the journey, such as tests or the pressure of graduating with an admirable resume.
The poem suggests that we never truly know what obstacles may stand in our way. We are often unsure of our futures and what lies ahead (i.e. our careers), so we should be prepared to act on any opportunities or deal with any obstacles that may arise.
Often times risks lead to break out opportunities in which case the risky choices actually become the safer choices because they lead to better opportunities.
When finding a career and establishing adulthood, it’s important to take control of the situations you are in and not to depend on others to take you through the journey with them.
Wow, that last quote gives me hope that we are making progress.
Even more importantly: parents, read the poem. Who are you in the story? Are you allowing your student to explore, make decisions, fail occasionally? Or are you helicoptering? What’s your intended outcome? And what is theirs?