Monday, February 11, 2008

My favorite quotes: Parker J. Palmer

This is, of course, from The Courage to Teach:

"We are now engaged in a crucial public conversation about educational reform, but a conversation is only as good as the questions it entertains . . .
  • The question we most commonly ask is the 'what' question - what subjects shall we teach?

  • When the conversation goes a bit deeper, we ask the 'how' question - what methods and techniques are required to teach well?

  • Occasionally, when it goes deeper still, we ask the 'why' question - for what purpose and to what ends do we teach?

  • But seldom, if ever, do we ask the 'who' question - who is the self that teaches? How does the quality of my selfhood form - or deform - the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleague, my world? How can educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching comes?
"I have no quarrel with the what or how or why questions - except when they are posed as the only questions worth asking. All of them can yield important insights into teaching and learning. But none of them opens up the territory I want to explore . . . the inner landscape of the teaching self."

Many thanks to Jo Kay for reminding me of this quote.

I'd only add three points. First, that Larry Hoffman asks this "who" question differently: "What would make you true to your calling?"

Second, that institutional transformation is ultimately about the transformation of individuals and their relationships with one another. Or another way - we can only change the world by changing our own behaviors.

And finally, that all this is predicated on the notion that people are not, in fact, interchangeable. Individual people actually make a difference.

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