Teaching is not an engineering problem. It isn’t a question of transferring a certain quantity of information from one brain to another. “Educate” means “lead forth.” A teacher’s job is to lead forth the powers that lie asleep within her students.Thus sayeth William Deresiewicz, would-be speaker of useful truths who is too passionately enamored of the monumental urgency of his cause to bother to speak carefully. On the topic of teaching, he has long been better than on meritocracy, and this too is on the whole sounder advice than that which is offered in the "Don't go to college or maybe just don't go to a top-5 college or maybe bring down the whole higher ed system instead I'm not sure which is best" essay of last month. It is true that there are certain strange tensions involved in the status of teaching, like how students desire to be foster-parented by every wise-seeming adult they encounter, even though desiring to be subject to authority in this way is slavish and at odds with our sense of ourselves as free and independent thinkers. But, then we get into the grand Dead Poets' Society platitudes about teaching about "everything," about "nothing less than life itself." Troubled waters. And where have we heard these particular tropes about education before? Oh yes, here:
I have no doubt Miss Mackay wishes to question my methods of instruction. It has happened before. It will happen again. Meanwhile, I follow my principles of education and give of my best in my prime. The word education comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is leading out of what is already in the pupil’s soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion, from the Latin root prefix in meaning in and term trudo, I thrust. Miss Mackay’s method is to thrust a lot of information into the pupil’s head; mine is a leading out of knowledge, and that is true education as is proved by the root meaning. Now Miss Mackay has accused me of putting ideas into my girls' heads, but in fact that is her practice and mine is quite the opposite. Never let it be said that I put ideas into your heads.Is Deresiewicz being ironic then? I doubt it (though if he were, my estimation of him would undoubtedly skyrocket). But Spark certainly is. So beware.