2.02.2002

The line between teacher and student is a product of tradition and a larger social desire to perpetuate order. It is a line that can be relaxed as students get older. Where children are playful, for adolescents and young adults, play needs to be induced with the effacement of authority.
I guess what I am trying to describe here is my own orientation to class. The main goal of my pedagogy is to invite life-long learning. What I came from my undergraduate experience with was a list of books I did not have time to read, a genuine love for my subject that has grown rather than diminished, and the profound experience of learning more in the informal discussions of the dorms than the formal lecture hall and classroom. This does not always work, but I try to approach students as one whose self-image is that of a student. Wittgenstein is sometimes described as an authoritarian figure. No doubt he was a lousy teacher if his goal was to impart substance, rather than invite thinking. I do try to impart substance. That is, there are texts I put in the hands of students. Plato's Republic, is canonical. I have expended enormous energy and concentration on learning to help students through this work. These techniques are maieutic. To use Socrates' image of the midwife, I try to draw the reading out of the student. This is opposed to imposing my reading on them. Midwifery is the intermediate position I guess I try to strike between student and teacher.
Ironically, I have just returned from a class that tanked. I stunk and they stank. It was a malodorous democracy, a collective reek. Who is responsible when a class fails? When it succeeds? What counts as success? What counts as failure?

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