Tuesday, April 26, 2011

`From Books, Madam, Like Everyone Else'

One aspires as a writer to both amateur and professional status, with neither designation having anything to do with money. Amare: “to love.” An amateur loves what he’s doing, regardless of other motives, and probably would go on loving it even if a paycheck were involved; a pro embodies discipline and dedication. He is serious and reliable. For what it’s worth, “professional” as an adjective entered the language early in the fifteenth century and referred to religious orders. “Amateur,” perhaps predictably, waited another four-hundred years and more to join us.

Patrick Keeney is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. On Monday he kindly sent me the final draft of a paper he co-wrote with a colleague, Robin Barrow. “Universities, New Technologies, and Lifelong Learning” will be published in the International Handbook of Lifelong Learning. Normally, such fare doesn’t take its place on my bedside table, but I’m making an exception because Drs. Keeney and Barrow put Anecdotal Evidence in one of their footnotes. Here is the pertinent text:

“And one need only spend an hour or so trolling the internet to find `amateurs’ who are well worth reading. Amateurs they may be, uninformed they are not.”

And here is the footnote to the first sentence:

“See for example Patrick Kurp’s blog, `Anecdotal Evidence: A blog about the intersection of books and life.’ http://evidenceanecdotal.blogspot.com/”

I’m grateful for being judged “well worth reading” – and for being ranked as an amateur, and in such good company. One page after my footnoted appearance, Keeney and Barrow write:

“Liberal learning, unlike say, training in technical fields, requires very little by way of apparatus or paraphernalia. Dr. Johnson, when asked by a star struck admirer where he received such a splendid education, replied, `From books, Madam, like everyone else.’”

In his Dictionary, Johnson defined “amateur” as “a lover of any particular art or science; not a professor.”

1 comment:

e'clair said...

I would argue about the distinctions between the words amateur and professional in the sense that there are amateurs who are more dedicated to their learning than those who are paid to teach (even at a higher level).
I would say that anyone who has perservered in a chosen field, whether or not they are paid to do so, demonstrates a "professionalism;" and to support this point, is not one of the greatest criticisms of this decade against those who are so-called professional, but unable/unwilling to productively, playfully explore their fields (hiding behind rules, not truly looking to do the best they can).
P.S. I enjoyed the "cartoon goat" metaphor in the previous post. I am so looking forward to reading a book by you. Hardy har, and then you will be seen as a professional!