Class Notes

Foundations of Educational Thought — fifth meeting

Where to begin? This is the question that this class is forcing me to wrestle with.

On the one hand, the only place to begin is at the beginning. So we started with a treacherous descriptive writing assignment and, after some introduction, read Plato and are moving from there onward. We’ve begun at a beginning.

But then I got bored. Not so much with the readings or the content — God knows, I can go on forever on this early, “introduction to an introduction,” prolegomena kind of stuff — I got bored with myself. I worried that I was repeating myself to a degree that might be damaging to the “first things first” approach of the class. I felt like I was getting in the way.

So got in my own way and tried to re-start in the middle.

 Last night, I tried to interrupt the rather linear treatment and path we’ve been on, to introduce some of the nuance carried over from my other class on Wednesdays. I made a serious, fortunate mistake. It was a spectacular failure. (I’ll outline the basic exercise on Wednesday, where I plan to use it again.) I then tried to simply demonstrate the rigor through reading my favorite passage from book three of the Emile. — the only strong response was fatigue.

At the end of class I received two very direct criticisms for being too long and too hard. They are both right, of course. I will repent next week and offer penance. But the deeper lesson is twofold:

First, what works in one class does not work in the other. I tend to project success into failure. I like to think that one big move in one place translates to a big move in the other. Not always so. Sometimes it is best to take things one thing at a time.

Second, it is important to show, even through failure, what is out there, in deeper waters. The best way to get someone hooked (pun intended) into fishing is to catch a HUGE fish right before their eyes. Even if you don’t land it, to see a glimpse of the hidden monster below the murky surface, is enough. They may not catch one themselves. But, if they are serious, the fact that they know that these things are out there will infect their desires and convert them. The ones who are not serious to begin with are hardly worth considering in the first or last place.

There is also some hope in the room. Real hope. I’ve met with a few students, and this week I’ll meet with more, so I have more of a sense of where they are personally, which makes all the difference in terms of the overall arc of the class. I am beginning to see that this class, for all the difficulties it has given me, is perhaps, in its own way, the most serious one in terms of forcing me to TEACH.

On Wednesdays, I feel like I don’t teach, I just AM.

There is room for both, I think; and both are wretchedly beautiful.

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