Week 13: “Don’t answer in unison like that; it encourages blind obedience!”

“Persistence in the face of a skeptical authority figure is priceless. And yet we undermine it.”

Seth Godin

As I was listening to Seth Godin get all fired up about what precisely school is for, I was struck by his comment concerning authority figures. I wholeheartedly agree with the crux of his talk–that we as a society need to figure out what school is for, because the outdated industrialist educational model is not working. The fact that for most of their waking lives, American public school students are being “processed” to conform, comply, and calmly accept a broken and toxic system is unsettling to say the least. Now, I completely understand where Timothy Leary was coming from…

… though, closet hippie that I am, I’m not willing to take his ideas quite that far.

What I am willing to do, however, is corrupt the youth just a teeeeeensy bit by rebelling against this disturbing trend of fetishizing Cold Rationality and so-called objectivity in today’s academic environments. Now might be a good time to note my belief that, where human minds are concerned, there’s no such thing as objectivity; it fails to account for the multiplicity of embodied experiences that necessarily exists in a classroom. As for rationalism, I believe that such dispassionate analysis is vital for solving many of society’s most pressing problems. However, it has no place in student-teacher interactions, especially in a classroom environment.

Parker J. Palmer’s assertion that student’s emotions should be taken as seriously as their intellect is particularly salient here: there are far too many emotionally stunted students, former students, and even teachers limping along to justify the lack of empathy in institutional settings (a phrase that automatically connotes coldness and indifference in the face of human suffering). I believe that one of the most important takeaways from all that I have learned over the last semester is this: our students are whole human beings with inner lives and a place in the world outside the classroom, we as instructors are as well, and regardless of what happens in our classes, we should continue to see each other as such. That is the bedrock of this whole teaching business. The rest is window dressing.

It’s been a pleasure,


P.S. the title is a quote from Adam Ruins Everything.

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