On teaching

January 18, 2015

In order to be a good teacher, you don’t have to know shit, about math, history, physics, or anything. You just have to be able to help someone figure out what it is that they want to know.

If they don’t understand something, it’s because it is not coherent with what they already know. Assuming there is some truth to something that doesn’t seem to make sense, one has to change what is already known. For you to be able to help someone dealing with this they have to be able to explain what they know to you (or someone you can refer them to). Your first task is to facilitate this.

No matter how much they must change in order to accommodate the potential new truth, they must do so at whatever length insofar as fundamental truths remain true to their purpose. Fundamental truths must be recognised and proclaimed (assumés). Helping with this is a teacher’s second task. Of course, if what is not understood cannot be accommodated because certain fundamental truths forbid it with good reason, then teacher becomes student and vice versa, although the question eventually may have to be left aside to await higher stakes.

So simply put:

1) Students must be able to teach (they must be able to explain what they know to others)

2) Certain questions will always be asked, even if they are answered.


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