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Published Sat, Nov 17, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Sat, Nov 17, 2012 06:52 PM

Corinth Holders class project teaches non-conformity

As part of his class project on Transcendentalism, Corinth Holders High School student Hinton Edgerton has carried a quote from Henry David Thoreau to local businesses to post in their windows.
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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- It was this or sleep alone in the woods, isolated from society, and observing nature.

"I wouldn’t want to sleep in the woods," said Hinton Edgerton.

A junior at Corinth Holders High School, Edgerton is studying transcendentalism in his A.P. United States History class. All of the students in his class were assigned a “guerilla transcendentalism” project. They are supposed to spread the word about transcendentalism to as many people as possible.

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement started in the 1830s as a way to protest the mainstream culture and society. Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions, including organized religion and political parties, corrupt the purity of the individual.

When transcendentalism first began as a movement, one of its biggest advocates, Henry David Thoreau, showed others what transcendentalism meant by going into the woods to live away from society. But for Edgerton’s high school class, the options weren’t so extreme.

Each student in the class, for which Edgerton’s step-dad is the teacher, was given a quote by a prominent transcendentalist such as Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson. Students, now all a part of the "Transcendental Guerrilla Brigade," were then given a list of things they could do with the quote to earn points. The list included such things as designing and wearing a button around school for the day with the quote on it, getting the quote announced on the morning announcements, or seeking out publicity through the media.

Edgerton, a musician at heart, says he was assigned the perfect quote from Thoreau.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

“My mom tells me I would always march to the beat of a different drummer as a kid mostly because I wasn’t into things other people were into,” said Edgerton. When he saw other kids his age playing sports, he was learning to play music – drums, fiddle, and guitar.

Edgerton said he wouldn’t really call his teacher a transcendentalist. “He’s a pretty rational person,” said Edgerton. So the project isn’t a way to transform the town, it’s really about getting the students involved in what they are learning.

Before learning about transcendentalism in class, Edgerton said he had thought about similar concepts, but not as deeply as he does now.

“I think people should step outside their comfort zone,” he said. “[Transcendentalism] means don’t conform to what everyone tells you to do and I totally agree with that.”

So far for the project, Edgerton has stepped outside his comfort zone by bringing signs with his quotation typed on them to local businesses to get them to post it in their windows. He’s also convinced one of his teachers wear a sweatshirt with the quote printed on it. And now, his effort’s drawn the attention of local media.

Although he’s begun to think of things in a new way after this project, one thing that hasn’t changed is his idea about what’s a good plan for his future. Transcendentalists may protest institutions but one institution Edgerton says he won’t protest is college.

After high school, he said he’d like to study music education at either East Carolina University, or Eastern Tennessee University.

Here’s your A, Hinton.

James: 919-553-7234

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