Summarize the basic idea of Emerson's "The American Scholar."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Emerson's fundamental thesis in his speech is the need for the American academic institutions to have enough gumption and internal strength to "discover" a new intellectual path.  Emerson seeks to develop the path in the academy to embrace a new, "American" voice to scholarship.  For so long, Emerson had seen the academy pattern itself solely after the European intellectual theatre.  In his speech, Emerson makes clear the basic idea that American intellectualism does exist.  Emerson identifies the development of Transcendentalist philosophy as a part of this process.  In embracing this set of ideas, Emerson believes that American intellectualism can take root apart from Europe, embracing the passion and uniqueness that is located in American.  For Emerson, this becomes one of the most important elements in his speech.  American intellectual thought has to branch off from its dependency on European thought and formulate something that represents the character and distinction of America.

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