"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

24 August 2007

On Confusion and Learning

"You have to be confused before you can reach a new level of understanding anything." -- Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Prize winning chemist from Harvard

If one were never confused, one would never need to learn anything.

Now, if I can just convince my students that confusion is not necessarily a bad thing -- help them learn to use it as a catalyst for learning. But it means a willingness to trust the one who brings on the confusion and an ability to spend a certain amount of time (maybe a little, but maybe a lifetime) in a state of negative capability.

And another semester begins.


GrumpyTeacher1 said...

Oh, yes.

predictablepoet said...

"...that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration."

Except truth, I hope. Perhaps I'm taking this too far afield contextually, but I, personally, have to be careful that my "sense of Beauty" doesn't carry me too far into territory of which I know nothing. We must, of course, write about things we understand enough to have something worthwhile to say. As an undergrad, I was very justly called out by Dr. J when I wrote a paper and "said things well" but "didnt' have anything to say." Uncertainty can be wonderful if it points us to truth--and Truth--but it can be dangerous to dwell there...

Fieldfleur said...

I hope you're leading your students into that state of chaos as you wish. Yet I'm sure you're not leaving them there w/o some type of gentle guidance.

I'll bet you're a wonderful teacher. Hope the semester's going well.