I'm distrustful of content-based pedagogy because I'm distrustful of any desire to reproduce identity, to make more of the same. I think pedagogy that seeks to reproduce little versions of the teacher is as suspect as parenting that seeks to reproduce little versions of the parent.

I think that good teaching, like good parenting, demands helping a younger person articulate their best self and understand themselves in relation to the world; it can't do that by determining for a student who they are or what they need to be.

My approach to pedagogy is equally rooted in philosophy and in pragmatism. In my experience, you just can't make people think or be what they don't want to think or be, or what they're not ready to think or be. You can point people in a certain direction; but if they don't want to run with you, they'll just be gazing vaguely in that direction while you sprint off towards the sunset.

It is inevitably the case that in a class with 6 or 12 or 40 students, only a few will share your investments and interests. It can be more or less depending on context and institution, but as a teacher you always have to be prepared for the possibility that you walk into a room and not a single student in there gives a shit about what you have to say. What do you do with those students? How do you serve those students? I absolutely reject the idea of just writing students off. I think if you're going to stand in front of someone for 45 minutes and tell them what to do, you have to either bring in something they can find a way into or have the excuse of a prescribed curriculum. Nothing else will do.

This is why I consider my job to help students learn how to think whatever they're thinking, rather than telling them what to think. I would love if my students learned about socialism or psychoanalysis or Spinoza from me; I would love it if they came out of the closet after I teach Sedgwick or whatever. But that's not always going to happen, and it's never going to happen with every student. Unless I am in a position to vet or choose each student individually - and unless each student is also in a position to leave my class - I don't consider it ethical to demand students think or know in a particular way, in part because I know people can't always overcome the modes of thinking they've internalized without a lot of work. I've never taught a graduate seminar, but if I could teach, say, a grad seminar on Spinoza and interview each potential student for 20 minutes first to see if they could hack it, that would be one thing. But if I'm walking into a room full of undergrads or high schoolers, some or all of whom don't want to be there, I have to be able to offer them tools and concepts that don't demand allegiance to a specific content or ideology.

-Fuck Theory

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