|Der sinnhafte Aufbau der sozialen Welt|
|Teacher:||Tell me who did what when in the story you were assigned to read last night.|
|Student:||If and when I find some reason to read that story, I will read it. If and when I find some reason to make the effort to find out the details you just asked about, I will do that. What are the reasons you think that story is worth reading? What are the reasons you think those details worth finding out? What are the reasons you think those details are worth me telling you about, since you apparently already know them?|
|Teacher:||So I can find out how well you did the assignment.|
[This page is not properly part of my dissertation. I have written it 5 years after I was awarded my degree. It consists of reflections I have had, on the product and the process, in the interim.]
The title of this page: "Toward a place for study...", is a quotation from the title of an article my dissertation sponsor, Professor Robert O. ("Robbie") McClintock (photo, right), wrote in 1971, about 12 years before I began my Teachers College course of studies -- 24 years before I completed it. I think (and feel) that Professor McClintock's essay says much that remains valuable: Like some other texts which have been most helpful to my studies, time has not passed it by, but rather it remains part of a past which our present still has not yet reached to.
Here, I wish to add some of my own thoughts about the social and personal praxis of study, which, as Rabelais -- to whose work Professor McClintock introduced me -- said, is the proper activity of persons.
Assignments, tests, grades... all hurt me. (One of the main things I learned in that "place called school" was: avoidance -- to not voluntarily take courses from teachers who gave long reading lists and graded stringently.) Everything I learned under the conditions I experienced, primarily at St. Paul's School for Boys (Brooklandville, Maryland), and at Yale, was mostly despite my experiences as a student in those institutions. (I shall speculate, below, about an opportunity I may have missed, at Yale, due to my misfortunate -- what I have come to call: categorially deprived childhood, one of the best moments of which -- and I am not being ironic here -- may have been when, in "the second grade", I accidentally stabbed myself in the palm of my hand with a pencil.)
My Teachers College doctoral dissertation, however, was different in a better way. What I needed as a growing child, I finally got as a middle-aging adult. Let me once again thank my dissertation sponsor, Professor McClintock, for making this possible -- for it is only due to his not intruding in my process of writing the dissertation, and keeping others from intruding in the process of getting it approved, that I was able to do it.
I have a phobia of libraries: the thought of going into the "reserve book room" as an undergraduate, to read texts which I could not keep in my possession, and from which, even worse, I would need to scribally copy text which had already been committed to type plates (aka: "take notes"), frightened and depressed me. My finally approved, but entirely self-defined dissertation topic had a bibliography small enough for me to purchase (sometimes: photocopy) almost every text I used. I was long since tired of being jerked around by teachers' curricular agenda. Even at Teachers College, in pursuit of checking out the feasibility of one dissertation proposal, despite the fact that I had completed the "course requirements" for my degree, I encountered a professor who told me that, to get certain background I needed to do the dissertation, I should take her course -- which would have meant more coerced assignments and being graded yet again (Oh, yes: and also paying more tuition for something I didn't feel appropriate).
In the process of producing my dissertation, I did seek help from experts (I hope I am not a "know it all"!). I was able to avoid altogether having to interact with members of the Teachers College faculty, which would have exposed me to a wide range of impingements due to their potential coercive power over me. I found experts not associated with "my school"; I paid them mutually agreed fees for their services (I also got some free help, e.g., from Professor Emeritus Louis Forsdale, and Dr. David Robbins); and, if either they or I decided the relationship had ceased to be productive, we could simply part company, with no expectation of what had happened between us affecting me getting my degree -- beyond, of course, the ways in which the interaction had furthered my studies.
To pursue self-selected study themes, with all the books I needed "around me" to write in as I pleased but not have to copy from ("my books"), under the guidance of persons who had no ability to hurt me (e.g., by giving me a bad grade which might adversely affect my prospects in life), but with whom I would engage in freely contracted relations... -- all these are things I needed, and which I believe would have optimally facilitated my personal and intellectual growth ("Bildung"), from early childhood. As said above, however, misfortunately I only got these things when my education was almost done and my life more than half over. Few persons ever get such an opportunity, and, as one person put it: Graduate students frequently pick a dissertation topic because it fits into their faculty advisor's aganda, they do the work to get the degree, but it means nothing to them, and they never give any further thought to "their" dissertation topic once it has served its purpose of enabling them to graduate. On the other hand, I paid a price: The degree I finally was awarded, a Doctor of Education in Communication in Education, has proven pragmatically useless: Truly, it was virtuous activity which was its own reward, for, five years after I got the dregree, I still have to earn my living ("reproduce individual and species life") by working as a computer programmer. One might say that I got a rich person's education (for the love of learning as an end in itself) even though I was not rich (need to "earn my living"). (How I wish my "business card" -- as I believe I once read about Susanne Bachelard -- could read simply: "Independent scholar".)
The possible missed opportunity is this: At Yale, there was one teacher, Professor John Wild (1900-74; one of the persons who introduced Existentialism and Edmund Husserl's transcendental phenomenology to America[fn.98]), whom I believe genuinely liked me. When I asked him to write a recommendation for me when I went out to get a job after dropping out of Pennsylvania State University's Ph.D. program in philosophy (due to being "shell shocked" by my schooling...), Professor Wild wrote a recommendation in which he said I had been one of the best students he had since several years. To me, personally, he had said that he liked the way I applied ideas to life rather than just shuffling jargon words abstractly like most of his graduate students. He also expressed his disappointment that I had dropped out of graduate school, because, he wrote: My Ph.D. would have enabled me to be a free man.
I liked Professor Wild, too. But I was so scared at Yale (afraid of getting a bad grade and finding out what "or else" it would lead to...), that the best I could imagine doing was occasionally talking with Professor Wild after class, and, once, asking him, after he had delivered from a podium a lecture on the nature of freedom to a class I in which I was enrolled: "Excuse me, Professor Wild! But how can you lecture to us on the nature of freedom when you are going to give us an exam at the end of the course and grade us?" I seem to recall that he replied that he was going to retire in a couple of years and that I should know that he meant no harm. (I will never know, but hypothesize that Professor Wild "saved my ass" on my undergraduate comprehensive examination, upon which Professor Paul Weiss wrote: "Puerile", but for which I nonetheless received: "Honors with exceptional distinction".) --It never even dawned on me that I might apply to Yale's graduate program in philosophy, to study with Professor Wild (who might have become my Robbie McClintock 25 years earlier?).
The topic of my Teachers College Ed.D. dissertation in Communictaion in Education would have likely applied, mutatis mutandis, to a Yale University Ph.D. dissertation in Philosophy. I think there's a chance John Wild might even have approved it. And, when he retired to the University of Florida (Florida State?), maybe either he would have helped me find another sponsor at Yale, or I could have gone with him? Two things seem fairly likely: (1) A Ph.D. dissertation from Yale would probably have had a better chance of having social impact to improve our culture, and, far more important, (2) A Ph.D. degree from Yale at age 25 would, as Wild said, have made me a free man: Instead of having to divert my energies to earning a living in activity not contributory to my interests and aspirations, I could have earned my living furthering those interests and aspirations, for both my own satisfaction and to contribute to "our culture". To repeat: This did not even have a chance to happen, because I did not have the ideas (the: categories, see above) to conceive it. I speak now so that my "upbringing" -- which surely brought me [to somewhere...], but equally surely, except by inadvertance and unintended side effect, did not raise me up -- shall happen never again.
For, as Jesus said -- please factor out the mythological alienation in the biblical quote, and substitute Edmund Husserl's: "transcendental subjectivity [which] is intersubjectivity", for: "my"/"I" --,
"...where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20)
Please see something I have written concerning the social relations between
teachers and students in a so-called capitalist society:
Where the consumer is
|Leisure is the basis of culture (and education).
See IBM poster: "How to Stuff a Wild Duck".
Learn why a city can deserve to exist (Louis Kahn).
What I believe ("The net"). [View intro!]
|Return to Brad McCormick's dissertation Table of Contents.
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