Teach like a bandit

The interesting thing about teaching is that you don’t always have to give students the truth for them to find their way. The simple obvious truths are usually overrated. Occasionally you have to ambush them, and steal their attention with misdirection. Sometimes the provocation for students to do their own important thinking comes from outright falsehood, sometimes from ambivalence, sometimes from overstating a case, sometimes from understating a case, playing devil’s advocate, etc. A good teacher doesn’t just spoon feed the answers or set ‘good examples’ but often lies like a bandit to get ideas across. Sometimes the mere hint of truth is all it takes to encourage an evolving intellect, and sends it careening across the wide imaginative universe. Good teachers can hide that truth in many ways to make it a challenge for students to find, and then properly own. Unless its earned by them it will always be someone else’s truth. Because, sometimes the important stuff stays mostly hidden in the shadows, and you need to look less at what’s staring you in the face and more at what is only implied between the lines….. Sometimes you have to put two and two together and not simply expect it to always equal four: Parts of the question only lead to parts of the answer, and maybe there’s more to be said than we’ve heard. When it looks obvious, that’s the time for us to be most suspicious that we are missing something. Like a riddle wrapped in an ambush in a Bogart mystery….. Teach like a bandit.

big sleep

About Carter Gillies

I am an active potter and sometime pottery instructor who is fascinated by the philosophical side of making pots, teaching these skills, and issues of the artistic life in general. I seem to have a lot to say on this blog, but I don't insist that I'm right. I'm always trying to figure stuff out, and part of that involves admitting that I am almost always wrong in important ways. If you are up for it, please help me out by steering my thoughts in new and interesting directions. I always appreciate the challenge of learning what other people think.
This entry was posted in Art, Arts education, Beauty, Ceramics, Creativity, Imagination, metacognition, Pottery, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Teach like a bandit

  1. Okay, so here’s the gunman waiting behind the chair in the darkened corner:

    We are naturally inclined to accept authority even when its unjustified.

    The shot I was aiming was that we are less inclined to do our own thinking if someone we trust tells us something is fact or truth. Teachers can break through this mindless adoration by FORCING students to come to their own conclusions. Good teachers do this all the time, when its important not just to convey information but to encourage independent and responsible thinking. Teachers who only put themselves out as the correct model for thought and behavior are even worse bandits, since they are only interested in what they themselves have to say…….

    And so interestingly we get these lessons in autonomy not just from good teachers but by having an ounce of skepticism in the face of Nimrods. We also get these rude awakenings from the outrageous posturing of complete imbeciles. Sometimes a real doofus will spout off about something as if they were laying down the gospels, and its only sink holding onto that lodestone of aimless pontificating or swim on your own to get as far away as fast as you can…..

  2. From NPR:

    On Thursday we told you about an elaborate hoax carried out by a science journalist who wanted to teach the media a lesson about being more responsible in reporting on nutrition science.
    Eating a chocolate bar daily can help you lose weight? Sorry, that study was a sweet lie — part of an elaborate hoax to school the news media about proper nutrition science journalism.

    As we reported, John Bohannon conducted a real — but deeply and deliberately flawed — study on how chocolate affects weight loss. He wrote press releases to alert the media, then sat back and watched who bit. Many news organizations around the world took the bait.

    On Friday’s All Things Considered, Bohannon talks with NPR’s Robert Siegel about how and why he carried out this scheme, which he revealed this week in a post on i09.

    “My goal was to show that scientists who do a bad job and get their work published can end up making headlines because it’s us — journalists like you and me — who are failing,” Bohannon tells Siegel. Because the media often fail to do due diligence, “the world is awash with junk science,” he says.

    Now while lots of news outlets — including Shape magazine in the U.S. — picked up the study, many other well-respected organizations, including The New York Times, the Associated Press and major broadcast networks, did not. (For the record, NPR did not report on it.) So shouldn’t that be heartening?

    “I wish it were that easy,” Bohannon says. As he notes, the tabloids and other news outlets that ran with the bad science probably got millions of eyeballs. And this kind of junk nutrition information gets promulgated every day, he says.

    “The entire nutrition beat is one of the most corrupt,” Bohannon says. “The science is completely disrespected, even though what you eat affects your health, and is every bit as important as cancer and astrophysics.”

  3. Why Murder Philosophers?

    3:AM: What made you become a philosopher?

    Costica Bradatan: What made me interested in philosophy? The beginnings are particularly ironical. The year was 1989 and the place was a communist country, well behind the Iron Curtain. I was eighteen, finishing high-school and on my way to joining the glorious working class as a factory worker. And I wanted to do something next to impossible in my situation: getting into the Law School, for example. That was then an undergraduate major. Among the things they devised to spice up one’s life in a society like that there was a peculiar university-admission requirement. To pass the Law School’s entrance examination you had to memorize, to the minutest detail, two voluminous textbooks. Very much like the “Imperial Examination” – the memorization tests the aspirants to public service posts had to take in old China. The subjects-matter were two disciplines the regime had taken to heart: philosophy and political economy. You see, I learned Marxism the proper way: by trying to get along in a Marx-inspired dictatorship.

    I had to be able to reproduce verbatim every single sentence, every single paragraph in those two textbooks: hundreds of pages of dogmatic, poorly written, regime-backing, ass-kissing literature. I had to memorize tables and graphs, quotes and political speeches, everything. Of course, the whole thing was immensely farcical. Others might feel crushed, humiliated or resentful. But I don’t. In a way, I am grateful because that absurd memorization – along with the much larger absurdity in which I was living – got me acquainted with a fantastic philosophical topic, one that means much to me now – namely, the human existence as farce.

  4. CB: You are right, failure can be very important. I think that because of our culture’s obsession with success, we miss something important about what it means to be human, and deny ourselves access to a deeper, more meaningful layer of our humanity. A sense of what we are in the grand scheme of things, an openness towards the unknown and the mysterious, humility and reverence towards that which transcends and overwhelms us, the wisdom that comes from knowledge of one’s limits, the sense of personal redefining and self-fashioning that results from an encounter with a major obstacle – these are some of the rewards that a proper grasp of failure could bring about.

    As I see it, failure stems from a certain ontological arrangement in which we find ourselves. This is a failure “by design,” an ontological deficit that comes from our being human and therefore defined by impermanence, imperfection, and death. Take the failure of your car’s brakes. That can be a metaphysical experience. Failure reveals just how close we always are to not being at all. When you experience failure, should you pay enough attention, you can see the cracks in the fabric of being. And how, from behind, nothingness itself stares at you.

    This kind of failure cannot be “fixed” – you have to learn how to live with it. And living with failure can be a unique experience. For failure can, once it has been digested properly, help us look at ourselves with different, better eyes, allowing us a glimpse into our darker side, the place where our vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and shameful acts come from. This can be a sobering, but also a redeeming experience. We can return from there healed, bringing with us the realization that not only can we live with failure, but we can also flourish; not only doesn’t failure kill us, but it can help us live more meaningful lives.

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