Summer 1996

What Kind of Student do I Want to Create?

Rich Gibson

Students have a right to know what a teacher wants to make of them. This is a partisan matter which involves curriculum, methods, and political direction. Students should also have the freedom not to become exactly what the teacher wants. This does not need to be a rule as it always happens anyway. Still, teachers have a duty to make their aims known, a responsibility to regularly reexamine their goals, and the right to change them.

I hope to struggle with students to the point that they themselves can employ, with a historical sense, ways to unveil, comprehend, and transform the material world. I am interested in creating the kind of leader who grasps the contradiction of the necessity taking charge and the critical importance of each individual understanding how to hold the reins. This is also a pedagogical question for me, that is, at what point is it worthwhile to intervene with directive knowledge rather than to let students pursue dead ends? When can theory prevail over practice?

In this, I try to engage students in the study of matter in motion, the world as it changes, beginning with the world as they see it. I hope students will discover relationships, particularly the relationships between individual and collective interests which necessarily involve questions of ownership, power, and privilege. I want students to wonder about who creates value, and who controls it--and why. I am more concerned about labor, sexuality, and the construction of coherent methods to gain and test knowledge in a reasonably free atmosphere than I am concerned about important, but derivative, issues like culture and language.

Recognizing the probability of unpredicted consequences, I hope to create a student who is engaged and passionate, deeply involved; yet who is at the same time sufficiently detached to maintain perspective, to stay on course over the long haul--or at least who has enough confidence and courage to show up, engage, and see what's next. This is as much affective as cognitive.

I aim for a student who is reasonably expert in an area she believes is important, yet who is able to see the direct relationship of the process of learning and practicing her expertise to that of others. As a pedagogical technique, then, I think it's better to focus on small things, and draw big lessons.

I hope students will recognize their own material interests in furthering the historical trajectory of equality and democracy. I try to build educators who are willing to take a partisan stand, strategically, on the side of the interests of the majority. This means to use good judgement, survive, persevere, and prevail.