8.09.2007

Why we fight

Phil Ford at Dial M:

Humility is the right attitude in the face of The Tradition -- the great accumulated weight of thought we might imagine being kept in some Great Book, the Book of All Books, by the Recording Angel of Academia. Sometimes, when I've done something I think is clever, I think I'm pretty awesome. But nothing I've ever done, or ever will do, will amount to more than a footnote in the Great Book. And this is the same attitude everyone must learn in college. It's a bit like the "Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei" episode in Kill Bill.
I might note that we don't really preserve the tradition by treating everything as if it were 1948, or 1498 for that matter. But it's The Book of All Books that is endangered by our barbarism and our callous disregard for the earth that we wrote it on. I don't want it to have to be preserved in a cave, on the high ground.

Ford goes on (because, amazingly, his isn't really a post about sleep-debt-fueled fretting over the apocalypse, it's about teaching):
If the knowledge you seek is really worth attaining, it's worth showing some respect first. The professor who demands respect isn't necessarily demanding it for himself alone (although he might be). Ideally, the respect you demand is for the enterprise you share with the student, something that's bigger than both of you. Undergrads especially need to discover that there is something bigger than them.
I'm certainly enough of a Tory to appreciate that.

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