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The Yearn to Learn

Professor Toni McNaron

Toni McNaron portrait

There's nothing we like better than an educator who has an insatiable drive to continually expand their educational horizons, and many LearningLife instructors are open and thoughtful about the myriad ways in which they feed their yearning to learn. Take the case of University of Minnesota Professor Emerita Dr. Toni McNaron.

The author of numerous books, McNaron often writes about her experiences and forays into the unknown (and known) in her blog, which has been home to a host of topics since 2013. Recent titles include: "The Value of Echoes," "1808," "Prayers for the People, August 12, 2018," "Taking a Knee," "Utopias," "Cats I've Known," "A Poem for These Times," "Memory and Memories," "Racism at a Cemetery," "A Hungry Heart," and most recently, "Coming to America," in which McNaron details her introduction to and new-found appreciation for the work of American actor and comedian Eddie Murphy.

Late to the party, you say? McNaron begins her essay with this admission: "Often I am very late in coming to know about people or events popular around me. So it is with Eddie Murphy...." With a narrative that is infused with both child-like glee and keen cultural insight, McNaron details what she has come to discover about Murphy's talent; she also identifies the historical foundations for the film's satire.

Unabashed, she concludes: "It's just one more example of what can happen for me when I am willing to step out of my comfortable parameters and let myself take in a fresh world. I find wonderful examples of talent and wisdom about us human beings that I'd miss if I just stayed on familiar ground."

Samuel Beckett opined, "Curiosity is the safeguard, not the death of the cat." And while we live in a world that is rich in complexity, puzzle, and paradox, we're fortunate to live among those who embrace the questions, the wonder, the endless instinct to seek.

There's a reason McNaron has received five awards for outstanding teaching as well as the College of Continuing and Professional Studies Distinguished Educator Award. It's likely the same reason her current course, Voices of Light: Making Art Out of Politics (begins September 27), is full. But here's a hint: if you add your name to the waitlist for this or any LearningLife course, you may very well benefit from a cancellation—they happen!—and we'll make certain you are the first to learn about future courses with the instructor. Please, join us!

To learn more about or subscribe to Professor McNaron's blog, visit tonimcnaron.com/tonis-blog/.

Published on September 27, 2019