Friday, March 04, 2011


I sometimes think one of my most essential jobs as an English teacher is to continuously pull the rug out from under my students. That may sound severe, but I actually think of it as a gift to the students – a constant reminder that all their cherished thoughts and theories are as insubstantial as summer winds. As soon as the students think they’ve found the fundamental truth in a poem or a story, it’s my responsibility to somehow show them that a measureless universe of opposing truths lies concealed underneath the one they’ve worked so hard to discover. The truth they’ve discovered is like a rug, and it’s my task to tell them that it rests on nothing but an infinity of differing thoughts and theories. I don’t want my students to ever become too comfortable with their knowledge, too sure of their understanding, too solidly positioned on some presumption or other. All the rugs they stand on in 9th grade to convince themselves of their righteousness and wisdom will be pulled out from under them in due course, and part of my responsibility is to do some of the pulling when they’re 14. Perhaps it will help them find, sooner rather than later, that the universe of knowledge is vaster than the galaxies, and that all “rugs” do nothing but separate them from this bountiful and beautiful universe.  

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