From the inbox:
Always a good start. Flatter me with Dr. and you'll get my attention.
My name is [redacted so his friends don;t make fun of him] and I am a junior at the University of [southern state] majoring in Economics with a minor in FIlm Studies.
Film studies? Really? I watched a lot of movies in college, but I didn't know I could get credit for it.
A couple of weeks ago I decided to e-mail all of the department heads at U[SS] with one question: What is a book (fiction or non-fiction) you would recommend to college students to broaden their thinking and light an intellectual spark?
'Broaden their thinking and light an intellectual spark?' Bwahahahahahahahaha...
I loved the responses I got so I decided to expand the project a bit. The book does not have to necessarily have to be related to your field of expertise. I am just very curious to see the answers that will be produced from a group of highly educated people with a diverse group of interests.
Oh, you're serious.
OK, here goes (yes, this was my response):
Great and interesting question. I am going to give your question more thought, but I wanted to send you my initial reaction (I often tell my kids and students to trust their instincts, so I might as well trust mine). I know many people might respond to your question with a book that will attempt to sway students to their way of thinking. I simply don’t think that way. My goal as an educator is to expand a students’ way of thinking. My hope is that students will use their knowledge to find new paths, for themselves and for others. The goal of education should not be to teach everyone to think the way everyone has always thought, but rather to teach people to think in new ways; respectful, but not beholden to the thoughts of their predecessors.
I can think of no book that lays this out better than ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go,’ by Dr. Seuss.
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.”
Oh, and yes, I'm serious.