Thursday, December 06, 2007

cogito ergo sum

I think there must be almost zero tolerance for "intellectual" discussion of any sort in the educational atmosphere here. It seems that such talk is perceived as toxic, unnecessary and, dare we say, downright dangerous to 'learning'. Consequently, there is a significant problem for anyone who seeks to move education away from its emphasis on classroom “techniques and tactics” and toward the “intellectual reasoning-through of important content.” What is more, “intellectuality” and its significance to learning and instruction cannot easily be understood, assessed or transmitted. There is a developmental process necessary here. To understand intellectual work, it is essential to understand reasoning as an intellectual process. To understand reasoning, in turn, it is essential to understand basic structures integral to it — for example, assumptions, inferences, and implications. Moreover, to understand these structures, it is essential to understand intellectual criteria crucial to the assessment of these structures in action. Finally, one understands all of this only by becoming intellectually disciplined oneself. This is not, of course, a matter of becoming an “intellectual” in some snobbish sense of the word. My students are only interested in 'passing'. The staging post is defined, theirs is not an interest in the process, or even the principle, merely the acquisition of the necessary piece of paper, thus for them the concept of "intellectuality" has no meaning. Except for the one or two, who are willing to peer through the gloom and catch a glimpse of something more exciting, abstract, beautiful, diffuse or unreal. Raise a glass - the smooth, the blushful Hippocrene, to them and listen with them for the song of the nightingale. It's been a particularly good year for Hippocrene.

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