Tuesday, June 24, 2008


C is for Confusion

I have always hoped that confusion would be a staple part of my English classes. I don’t mean chaos and disorder, just vigorous and instructive mental confusion, the kind of condition that can generate serious learning. Someone once said that the only truly wise people are those who have both the ability and the willingness to be confused, and I encourage that ability and willingness in my young students. Any worthwhile truth is only reached through the forest of confusion, and often the darker the forest, the brighter the truth when it’s finally reached. The books I require my students to read are blatantly confusing, as are the writing projects I assign. My students are more often in a muddle than a place of tranquility, more often squinting their eyes in puzzlement than opening them wide in effortless understanding. I arrange for confusion to happen in my classes because it helps my students’ humility, a virtue that often seems sadly missing in America’s young scholars. I want my students to realize, early on, that the universe is a thoroughly bewildering place, and that honest bewilderment is a perfectly appropriate attitude in a learner. I want to teach them to embrace bafflement because it’s the door to knowledge. I want them to consider confusion a friend because what can eventually follow is wisdom.

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