Wednesday, April 22, 2009


When it comes to learning, some things are better taught, while others are better caught.

Explicit instruction works best for most of the subjects in schools conveyed by means of lesson plans, exercises and tests, such as math, history, or biology.

But for other things, it’s the presence and example of a teacher who is expert and exemplary in such subjects (such as theatrical acting or public speaking or flute playing or versecrafting)—all such doings or performances that produce a learning which students catch by imitation, rather than absorb by instruction. “Do as I do” is the motto of such performative, rather than informative, guides and mentors.

In our “Writing about Human Frontiers” course this semester, I hope that I’ve served you in both capacities, as both instructor and exemplar. I hope that our course of readings, writings and discussions has led you into a new world of knowledge, issues and concerns, as well as given you useful critiques of your written compositions.

But equally I hope that I’ve demonstrated a kind of curious, far-reaching and inventive inquiry that has set examples for you of how to go about discovering new issues to explore, and new information to consider and assess. I hope you have observed me being enterprising and creative in ways that prompt you to do likewise, having caught something of the same spirit of inquiry and solution seeking that motivates me.