Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Alfred Sisley, Garden Path in Louveciennes, 1873


D is for Decisive

I have mixed feelings about teaching my students to be decisive. On the one hand, certainly I want them to develop the ability to make up their minds about something and then hold firmly to their judgment. When we’re reading a novel, I would like them to be able to form opinions about it and be resolute in their defense of their opinions. In their writing, I hope they learn to be definitive in their choice of a thesis, and then unwavering in their development of it. On the other hand, I also see great merit in helping my students develop their ability to remain indecisive. The fact is that young people tend to make decisions way too quickly; for them, being decisive is, in some sense, a way of life. They instantly decide to like this person and dislike that one, to love this book and hate that book. What I would like to do is to help them see the value of hesitancy, caution, and uncertainty. The universe is an infinitely confusing place, and a good way to live is to accept the confusion and remaining calmly uncertain and nonjudgmental. I hope the word “may” can become important for my students. This may be a person to avoid becoming friends with, but maybe not. This may be a dull book, but maybe not. A little of this kind of indecision may aid my students in appreciating the beautiful complexity of the world they live in. And then again, maybe not.

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