Teaching / Teachable moments

Please read my page about a constructive experience I (BMcC[18-11-46-503]) had in the first half of 2nd grade: here. Thank you.

I learned one constructive thing in elementary school (grades 1 thru 6)

Junior High and High School (aka: "prep school") was destructive in depth for me (BMcC[18-11-46-503]). Elementaty school had been mostly superficially benign: "just" a waste of years of my life. The school itself was an almost elite public school: It was Richond Virginia's "West End", in the early/mid 1950s, before they fully acepted that The South had lost the Civil War. Upper middle class white (christian and jewish) parents sent their children to Mary Munford School, where the Principal, Dr. Ely, had a Ph.D. in Biology, if I understood that correctly. He apparently recognized me as gifted but nothing came of that. It was just wasted time for me.

There was one little vignette, just a few minutes long, which was both personally and educationally constructive: One morning my class went to the library and the librarian showed us how properly to open a book without breaking its spine. You place the book vertically on its spine on a flat table and open the two covers flat on the table. Then, going from side to side, you press a few pages down on the table untilall the pages in the entire book has been pressed down on the table. You can then close the book and you are finished. This, of course, applies only to "sewn in signatures" books, not el cheapo books where a pile of pages are glued to a folded, usually heavier, sheet of paper which serves also as front and back covers.

Honor thy father and mother good books.

Famous Yale Art History Professor Vincent Scully: hypocrite

In my freshman year at Yale, I was in a special select program: "Directed Studies". We did not have to memorize stuff but we had to write a lot of essays. All our classes were seminars, many taught by full or associate professors. (I guess they thought I was smart?) One of my classes was Art History I, taught by Kermit Champa and Manet specialist George Hamilton. I also sat in on ("audited") famous Professor Vincent Scully's introductory art history lectures for Art History 10 – the course for the rest of the freshmen. Professor Scully's lectures were passionate and exciting.

Once, lecturing on Giotto, Professor Scully got so emotional that he broke down in tears and stopped the class because he could not get grip on himself. But it was nother class that he suddenly stopped the lecture that I found far more interesting. I forget what he was lecturing about, but all the students were busy taking notes, presumably because they thought they would be test on the material at the end of the course (final examination). Suddenly Professor Scully stopped lecturing. I forget whether he threw his pointer stick down. He looked around the room and commanded the students to stop taking notes and appreciate the artworks he was lectureing about. Then he must have had an insight: Why should the students stop taking notes since they would presumably be accountable for the information on their final exam? So he explained to them that they would not be tested on the content of his lectures but only on memorizing 300HisThe lectures were just the ketshup; Tthe meat was those 300 pictures. Students have a lot of work to do and little time. Why were they listening to Professor Scully's lectures? For fun? Professor Scully, while he may have thought he was teaching connoisseurship of great works of art, was really teaching obedience to rote memorization of facts that probably could be looked up in a book. I found this hypocritical.

None of that mattered to me. I was sitting in to enjoy Professor Scully's lectures and to learn to appreciate fine art more. I could afford to, becusae I wa not going to be tested on any of it. Professor Scullly showed a lot of great art objects in his lectures, along with their names and the names of the artists who created them. Of course I remembered some of them. For my final examination in Art History I, we studnts were shown a work of art wich we were not expected ever to have seen before, but to write about it "threoretically, "concptually". I began my exam answer with: "As we can see here in Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavillion...." I have no idea what my professor reading my exam must have thought of that? I sid get a good grade in the course. Professor Scully had indeed helped me, because I did not have to take his pathetic course but just enjoy his hifalutin lectures.

John Wild: a gentle giant

In probably the first semester of my sophomore year I was taking a phiosophy course from John Wild, probably something like Introduction to Existentialism. One of his lectures was about human freedom. As a student being submected to assignments and examinations I did not feel free. At he end of his lecture, I went up to the podium wher Professor Wild wsa standing above me and asked him how he could be lecturing to us students about human freedom when we were going to have to take a final examination in his course. He said he meant no harm. the next semester he let me take his graduate seminar. He als otold me he liked me because my concern withphilosophy was about living, not neoscholastic jargon like some of his graduate students.

Picking you nose is impolite?

Either my junior or senior year, the Vietnam was wa heating up for college students. I peripherally participated in a protest in the plaze bounded by the Freahman Dining Hall, the President's Office and the Beinecke Rare Book Library. After the protest was over, somehow I found my self in a small group of students talking with the Numbre 2 administrator of the university, drectly under the President, Kingman Brewster. We were off camera and I forget whatevactly we were talking with this administrator about. But I do remember him picking his nose while tlking with us. Presumably not something he would have done if there were press cameras around?

Don't make small people feel they are small

At teachers college ther was a person whom I wondered if he was mildly mentally retarded who taught a computer course in was in. He gave us students a group project, and we students selected our groups ourselves. I knew what I was doing, and ther was another student in the class who, like myself, was an IBM employee, whome I also perceived to be competent, so I quick scarfed her up. But, being fair-minded, I rounded out our little graoup with two of the most :lost" students in the class. I figured us two IBMers could do the peoject and the other two could contribute if they could, lern if they could, or just get a free ride.

At a cerain point I bluntly explsined this o the teacher, and he clearly was not happy about wht I ahad done. I got the dfeeling that he did not approve of me jusging some people to be incompetent, and I think he was taking it personally, which, I felt even at the time, would have been appropriate, but I did not say anything to hi in that rregard. I had simply been stating the facts. I certainly had not wanted to get into a group in which Iwould have been stuck with people none of whom knew what they were doing when I had a chance to team up with someone who would help row the boat.

In 2021 lingo, not only was I not being politically correct, but I even said proud of myself for my good judgment of my good judgement for doing that. Shouldn't this person have been pleased that I was not being callously greedy but had even proactively taken on two lost souls who might otherwise have not been able they had done the assignment? Just I shouldn't have called a spade a spade, of course. I looked upon that teacher as a kind of gofer in the department who was never going to become a full fledged faculty member; I think he sensed what I thought about him, and he did not appreciate feeling he was being judged as being "beneath" others, especially by a student when he should have been able to feel he was "above" me by the very ontological difference of me being a mere lowly student and him a teach.

The work for a course

A course in schol generally consists of readings, lectures, discussions (seminars), written assignments and examinations, etcetera and so forth. How much of ths is necessary? How much of it is constructive for a given student, or a fortiori, the very best use the student could passibly make of this part of the time he (she, other) has left on this side of the topsoil? How much of it os that normal kids need their Mapo? How much of it is is just post-Peter Ramumsitic dolt teaches' rote habit? Yawn?

What does it mean to "read" a subject at Oxford or Cambridge? I have no idea whatever, but the word sounds appealing to me. I know what I would it to mean: There is some thing, some object of consciousness (everything whatsoever is an object of conscious, from an Abrahamic Deity to a Zap Comix, from a toenail clipping to the Roman Empire, from a University to a toilet plunger, or just an idea about any of them or anything else such as the person now crossing the street...) → so a young person becomes interested in some object of consciousness and explores other objects of conscioutnes to richen his (her, other's) appreciation of said thing. In a university, the objects of consciousness in question might often be printed books. So to "read" history, say, might mean for the learner to read and thina about various books about aspects of human life on earth that genuinely excite his interest, and to discus these things with a teacher and, dialectically, to appreciate the things that interest him more deeply than if he just had to do it all by himself. After all, the teacher has probably read a lot more books than the student, and so may be able to make sugestions for transformative books the student has no idea exist, or suggest resources wher the student may find ore such books for himself (the old cliche about giving a starving man one fish or giving him a fishing pole to catch an indefinite number of fish for himself).

At teachers College, I signed up for a course in "Esthetics in Education, taught by endowed chair professor Maxine Greene. There was the usual: a reading list, a final examination, etc. At the start of the course, I asked Prof. Greene if instead – repeat: instead of doing these things, I could write an essay on a tangentially related topic in which I had a passionate interest. She told me to go do it. I worked on and then wrote up my paper and submitted it. She gave me an "A+" on the paper and an "A" for the course. That was the only course work I did for the course, i.e.: none of it at all. I listened to her lectures because they were interesting, not because they were relevant to meeting any course requirements or the essay I was cooking up. I offer this as a model for a course. Not the only constructive model, but one very good one.

Read: I received the stigmata (small-time) in 2nd grade

That's all, folks!

I wish i had more good stories to tell about my schooling but ther eare few if any. My experience doing my dissertation with Prof. Mcclintock was good, but there is very little to tell there: He let me RYO the whole thing. His contribution was mainly to not get in my way, which, of course, is very rare thing in thiis. world that is full of intrusive people. Surely the shape of my whole "life of the mind", insofar as conditions of pragmatic agenda have allowed, has been constructively shaped by that experience. But what is there to say about the not-happening of bad things which I would not likely have imagined until people had done them to me, except Thank you, Robbie.


Today, on 2022, I am now almost 3 decades away from being a student in any edncational institution. Did I really get my doctoral degree from TC? I got a diploma in the mail. i never got my bound copy of my dissertation. They stopped sending tuition bills. I am also 3½ years released from internment in Cyberia after I got made redundant by Dell/EMC 15 June 2018. I still study, or, rather, have resumed my studies. Just started Wilfred Bion's "A Memoir of the Future" and Heidegger's Heraclitus essays. How many persons who worked for almost 40 years as a computer programmer read such books? I won't go down that rabbitasshole here.

I do have my forest, actually two of them,one a couple hundred yards East and the other a couple hundred more North of my house. The one to the East is small enough that if one walks consistently in any direction they will get out of it in a little while, albit perhaps thru brambles. The one to the North you can proceed along the municipal resevoir for a long time. I have my Holzwege. But then there are the forest paths of the mind. I go down one pretty confidently and run into a big obstacle, so I back up and try again on another. I think I may have read Heidegger's essay in the original German many years ago, but that was when I was mostly somebody else than who I got transformed into (remember Gregor Samsa?) in the interim. Crescit eundo? Ojala!

+2024.02.10 v046
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