I long to have a mind awake, a good heart, and do justice with mercy.
Thankfully good teachers had patience with me and helped me learn. I have not always lived up to the values they taught, but they were there, guiding me, sending me back to the start, helping improve what I was through what I am to what I might be. This is the life of the dialectic, beginning with what “is,” seeing what “ought to be” through discussion in a community, and changing over time toward the “ought.” This process never ends.
Recently, a student at Crown College (Honors) asked me:
What got you interested in this type of thinking and exploration?
My parents are fundamentally responsible. Want a thinking child? Do two things:
First, read to him and surround him with books.
They did not consume all my time with activities and did not view reading as a waste of time.
Second, discuss everything, when in doubt talk it out.
My parents did not censor my reading, but they were curious about ideas and so would ask me about what I read. If I was reading Isaac Asimov, they explored scientism with me and we thought it out. If reading Narnia, and someone in the church worried I was worshipping Aslan, we talked it out. I wasn’t and they defended me.
Blessed in a childhood, I was fortunate again in my teachers, so awash in goodness, I shan’t try to name them. Here are five virtues that kept me wanting to learn joyfully.
They loved teaching.
You cannot take this for granted, go to a teacher’s lounge and listen. Sometimes all I hear is complaints about the administration (usually just) and negativity about students (rarely appropriate). Thankfully, most teachers and professors in my experience will teach despite any problems. They are energized and nothing, not even whack-a-doodle or just plain wicked administration can keep them down!
They let me learn at my speed.If I was good in a topic, they let me go forward and challenged my assumptions. If I was weak in an area, they were there to help, but never to condescend.
They gave second and third chances.
When students failed expectations, most of my teachers did not just pass us on and forget about our failure. They let us fail, but then helped us. We got to try again as often as we had desire and they had time.
They were smart and assumed all students could be.
One art teacher told me my drawing was derivative: in fifth grade and that was on a jolly day. The negativity in that class ended any interest I had in art, but better news was this was rare. Most teachers and professors assumed there was nothing we could not learn and generally they were right.
They learned with us.
If you have ever read a book (especially Republic) with a teacher like Al Geier is, they you know he wishes to see new ideas every session. I have seen him read a book he knows in profound detail with freshmen students working hard to learn something new.
My teachers grew with me.
Some of my teachers are now nearing or past retirement age, but they are still learning. They are still setting the pace. What else could I do around such waking souls than stir up, wake up, and learn. That’s how I got the habit of life that guides me today.
I am thankful.