Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

Fellow philosophy punk, Steve G, is passing along a meme. Out of great respect for Steve, I'll play, though in a curmudgeonly spirit I won't pass it along. It's really not an easy one to do.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not always sure precisely what I'm trying to accomplish in teaching - information transmission is obviously part of it, but probably the dullest part. Analytical skills are another obvious element. So is a further appreciation that problems can look very different from different perspectives, so that collective problem-solving is always, irreducibly, a matter of both consensus and conflict. Conflict is of rich pedagogical significance in itself if one can only see it as such and as long as it doesn't revert to epistemic tribalisms.

I suppose one thing that is crucial for me to relay is the philosopher's tendency to question and analyze all assumptions, "all the way down," as Rorty liked to say. I think this especially valuable now, being a philosopher in a policy school, when most policy analysis is built upon various quantitative and qualitative models but the assumptions, theorems, axioms, and value claims behind the models are rarely questioned. I don't know how to represent this in an image.

Another crucial element is "experience," a testy, vague, and rich word that connects past and present, reflective analysis and the immediacies of life. What John Dewey called consummatory experience is, technically, the outcome of successful inquiry, the reconciliation of doubt with habit (in the sense that Dewey used that term). Like its French cousin, the term suggests experimentation. There's also a much richer version in American thought. I inherited at least an appreciation for it from my greatest teacher, John J. McDermott. It ties me, through him, to a lush history of intellectual life bound to the concerns and immediacies of living, a direct lineage from teacher to teacher to... Ralph Waldo Emerson. I guess I hope that my students will crack open their lives further to the broadest possible range of experience, even when what they're doing as policy grad students is specializing, becoming "experts." Being somewhat of a dilettante myself, and living in a city in which the label of "expert" (whether merited or not) is rewarded above all, I'm always in doubt about the importance of teaching that the disorientation of experiential and intellectual lost-ness is the originating root of intelligence. Become an expert, get a well-paying job, contribute a few things to society, have a nice car and house, retire and play golf, die (have kids who will do the same). Why not? But then this city of Washington, DC, through its counterexample, reminds me that it often demands a dangerous pact against the other elements I listed above.

My choice of an image is kind of goofy. But it's intended to represent the "web," the life/death cycle, immediacy, history, fact/value, and experimentation/exploration.

So, here's the challenge:
Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for students to learn about.

Give your picture a short title.

Title your blog post "Meme: Passion Quilt."

Link back to this blog entry.
My image:

1 comment:

MT said...
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