We have lively discussions that require a thorough knowledge of the text, and the students write excellent papers that give close readings of particular passages. But the half-life of their detailed knowledge is probably far less than a year. The goal of the course is simply that they have had close encounters with some great writing>.I wonder how this applies to law teaching, law school coming later in the students' lives and Supreme Court opinions not being truly "wonderful texts" like Plato and Thucydides to Calvino and Nabokov (though they are kind of wonderful in their own special way). Even though I'm always imploring students to "engage" with the texts we must read in a constitutional law class, it seems a little nutty to expect them to become "vividly aware" or to find "fulfillment" and "pleasure" and "enduring excitement" (and yet somehow I feel entirely comfortable with that kind of nuttiness).
What’s the value of such encounters? They make students vividly aware of new possibilities for intellectual and aesthetic fulfillment—pleasure, to give its proper name....
We should judge teaching not by the amount of knowledge it passes on, but by the enduring excitement it generates. Knowledge, when it comes, is a later arrival, flaring up, when the time is right, from the sparks good teachers have implanted in their students’ souls.
May 24, 2013
"I’ve concluded that the goal of most college courses should not be knowledge but engaging in certain intellectual exercises."
Writes Notre Dame philosophy prof Gary Gutting, who teaches a freshman seminar reading "a wide range of wonderful texts, from Plato and Thucydides to Calvino and Nabokov."