World of Wonder
Lest I be misunderstood, I want to make it clear that my experience of a university education is seldom close to the picture summoned by G. Robert Ross. I was thinking about it this afternoon, as I heaved a huge sigh to the response to my dense proposal draft from my primary reader.
There were only two “huh?”s noted in the margin. Both are easy to fix. What was clear in the copious marginal notes was a clear sense of wonder and fascination with the topic I am exploring. These are the people I chose to work with—those who really care about the material they teach, and do not just go through the motions, flogging the students into submission to a preordained agenda.
I was thinking about it, because I have stolen from many of my mentors in my teaching style. As I reviewed around fifty papers in the last two days, I marveled at how people could possibly miss the major points of what I was trying to convey. Many of the papers diverged wildly from the aim of the assignments. But, thankfully, almost all of them were deeply engaged with the subject they were writing about. That at least, was worthwhile. Maybe some of what I have said will make sense to them eventually. When I think about my memories of teachers, what I remember most about most of them was their passion, not the specifics of the curriculum they taught.
They cared. They did their best to make me care. They did their best to communicate a sense of wonder at the scale of it all. It wasn’t just those in the humanities that pursued that strategy—during my brief foray into the Geology department, the same thing was true there. That sense of wonder can live in the sciences too. For me, that’s what a real education is about—not creating malleability, but impressing the sense that we live in a world filled with wonder, with mystery—not predigested facts.