On Knowing Again for the First Time

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

~ T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, The Four Quartets

Last week was finals week, and this morning will bring a blissful calm to campus as students take a break before the final push onward through spring term and the completion of another academic year. All last week tent kiosks popped up along Monroe street with banners announcing text book buy-backs. When I see these kiosks I ponder much longer we will have printed texts, which as a book lover is hard for me think about. Books to me are like friends, and I like to have them with me to visit when I need to, but I also remember my own college days when I eagerly piled my no-longer-needed texts on the table and walked away with some much needed money to help me get through the next term.

As far as I can tell, I have only one book remaining from all those I bought and sold over the my undergraduate years, and that is a comprehensive text on personality theories. This one book gave me the foundational training in all the great theories of human development, and introduced me to the wide variety of ways we can understand, predict, and guide human behavior. Over the years I have returned to this text many times to double check my understanding of a theory, and to work through how our more modern ways of describing youth development are grounded in these classical understandings.


The above quote from T.S. Eliot is inscribed in a lovely framed calligraphy created by a former graduate student when I directed an interdisciplinary studies program at a small university years ago. This beautiful gift of calligraphy and insight has hung on my office wall since it was given to me, and serves as a reminder that things always change. We are never static, and nothing is permanent. At the same time, all manner of things come around again and seem familiar, even if slightly different, or more evolved if you will. So it is that I found myself this weekend with a fresh stack of new books to read, books focused on the ever deepening understanding of child and youth development. Each of these books shares new important information about the sciences behind learning and development, information that will guide the way we think about and approach our work in the coming years. As I eagerly dug into the first of these – a book entitled The Self-Driven Child: the Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over their Lives, I was struck again by how far we have come in the area of brain development, and how little we knew all those years ago when I was studying personality theory. And yet – the new is very much built on the old.

I am currently preparing a series of conference sessions based on the sciences of learning and development – eight particular strands of contemporary research that will guide our thinking, study and practice of youth development in the years to come. In the coming days I will present each of these sciences and begin to explore what they mean for our work in helping youth thrive. As we set off on this exploration together, let’s ponder how the new information is built on what we already know and the great work that we do together. Then, let’s rise to meet the challenge of seeing the old through fresh eyes, a view that will enhance and strengthen our ability to practice good youth development in an increasingly complex and ever-changing landscape.

Thriving On,

Mary Arnold



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