Thematic Journal

The Daily Journal

Writing disciplines thought and provides a foundation upon which to build a sustained argument. A journal collects thoughts in one place and facilitates continuity of thought from hectic day to hectic day. In the absence of such a device, constant wheel re-invention is the order of the day. Logs can be of as much use to physicists and biologists as much as to humanists and poets.

Each course in a general education curriculum should have as a daily requirement the writing of at least one paragraph prior to the day’s class hour and another afterwards.

The purposes of the two paragraphs are to prepare for class with the articulation of questions and hypotheses with respect to the day’s subject matter and to synthesize the knowledge gained during the class hour and after related research and reading into a reformulation of those questions and hypotheses.

The Eureka Journal

Each core curriculum or general education course would have a class specific log or journal. However, there should also be a journal of journals or a EUREKA LOG for the highlighting of the quantum leaps in observation, understanding and insight over the college career of the student. Ideally, of course, each discipline-specific course should lead to moments worthy of the EUREKA LOG.

The Eureka Log should also include a discussion of the major decision points in a student’s undergraduate life and the rationale behind them: eg. choice of major, minor, extracurricular activities, post-graduate plans, voting decisions, religious affiliation decisions etc.

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Eureka log in particular would become of priceless value to each student for the rest of his or her life. And imagine the value to their children, grandchildren, etc. Did your grandfather die before you were born? Mine did. I envied those more fortunate. Then, a few years ago, I found in the attic a box filled with articles and poems tracking his thoughts and feelings from 1914 to 1939. The elation was gut-wrenching.

Where would we be without Darwin’s journals? Newton’s? Anne Frank’s? Logs (journals) have been used for millennia by men and women, young and old, in all fields. Benedictine monks and Puritan settlers tracked their spiritual pilgrimage toward grace. Darwin jotted down observations and drew connections between types of finches.

Mathematicians and physicists charted their path toward discovery of natural laws. Captains logged their progress. Accountants kept watch on expenses and revenues.

Reading without writing is like eating without digesting.

As the ancient Chinese saying says, the palest ink is better than the best memory.

If used correctly, the thematic journal can turn a college or high school education from a random walk from course to course into a disciplined journey toward self-knowledge and mastery of a broad range of skills.