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Alice Lesnick's picture

thinking from today

Thanks, Anne and Wil, for a session I can't stop thinking about. I wish we'd had about three hours this afternoon.

Each of Wallace's framing claims here bears looking into. About the first, I wonder about the theme of isolation v. freedom to go one's own way that today's session evoked. Wandering, alone and in company, is a happy kind of independence. Solipsism is a sad kind. The absolute quality of Wallace's conviction that he is the center of the universe, most real, vivid, and important, isn't convincing to me. I mean, he may have felt that, but I don't take it as a given human state, and I have often thought that an important project of formal education is to encourage us to de-center the self as we learn, over time, how big and bigger the world is, in James Baldwin's terms, bigger than anything anyone has ever said about it.

About the second Wallace passage, I wonder what happens when we stress the choosing rather than the what that is chosen. If it's the choosing faculty that needs strengthening, then that make sense to me as a spur to education.

The third statement of Wallace's erroneously, to my mind, opposes "intellectualizing" to "simply paying attention to what is going on inside me." Paying attention, whether the attention is directed outward or inward is a blend of intellectual and emotional, receptive and searching, symbolic and embodied energies whatever the location or prompt. To attend to inner life is as complex and demanding, and subject to skilled practice, as attending to studies or politics. More, what is going on inside me is in an important sense part of what is going on around me, in that I am part of the world that my brain is connecting me with, and others' brains are connecting them with, and my states of mind and being are in dynamic relation to those of others (human and otherwise).

It's interesting, then, to consider the implications of these ideas when the teacher is considered in relation to them, not as above or apart. If you were all here with me, I'd want to talk more with you how we could shift the terms of the inquiry by using a collectivist unit of analysis, a "we" as classroom community or team. Maybe this connects with Paul's point last time about team sports as an important pattern for learning. Maybe it's the teaming, not the competition, that is focal here.

Looking forward to more,


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