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Friday, December 13, 2013

A Moment at the End of the Semester

Winslow Homer. The Country School 
Teacher: "That concludes this long lecture on a possibly obscure topic. And this is our final class.

Here's the takeaway. In this class you learned how to assess sources. How to formulate questions. How to perform research.

After you leave this class, throughout the rest of your life, people are going to throw information at you, as if you were a soldier on a battlefield bombarded with information.

'Buy this! Sign up for this! Worship this! Join this!'

Pitchmen of various types will toss big words at you, packaged in incomprehensible sound bites: 'Remember what the Nazis did! So sign this petition!' Or, 'We can't take that route! Remember what happened to the Albigensians!'

Now you know how to handle that. If someone tells you to remember what happened to the Albigensians, or mentions some other word you're not familiar with, you can research it. You don't have to be in the dark.

I enjoyed this class. Keep in touch."

The students sit on the edge of their seats, looking at the teacher. She had meant to end, and to dismiss, class, but they are waiting.

"You can't let it go at that," one of them says.

"Yeah, you have to tell us," another demands.

"What?" she asks.

"What happened," they must know before they will leave, "to the Albigensians?"

It was one of my most beautiful moments as a teacher.

In that class, we talked about the films of Leni Riefenstahl, and Aztec human sacrifice, and whether or not a white man can rescue African American folklore, and the Parthenon's lack of right angles, and what that means.

They kept up with everything.

I can't say how often a colleague says to me, "You have them read *that*????" or "You discuss *that*??? With *our* students?"

Yes. Yes. Yes.


  1. Teaching is an amazing thing and I think too often we forget that with all the politics and drudgery that can surround it.