Professor Ricardo Duchesne: On Pedagogy
I noticed this pedagogical statement on Professor Ricardo Duchesne's faculty page, and found it worth reflecting upon, so I quote it here:
Dr. Duchesne believes that the reading of great books, from cover-to-cover, is essential to a university education. The term 'lecture' was originally applied to the exercise of reading -- and correcting -- the language of handwritten texts. The task of the student was to follow the reading, and make the necessary corrections in the manuscripts. Since the texts were difficult, the teacher would concentrate on explaining and interpreting the manuscripts, line by line, word by word. 'Resources' such as handouts, power-points, and WebCT lectures promote the erroneous notion that knowledge comes ready-to-wear. Knowledge is actually produced through continual reading, note-taking, dialogue, and rewriting. Duchesne upholds the traditional spirit of broad learning for the BA degree with a multidisciplinary core curriculum taught by generalists with a strong grounding in the Western intellectual tradition.I wonder how many of those Medieval 'lectures' involved real dialogue. I reckon much of what went on was strongly hierarchical, with the lecturer doing most of the talking and the students listening in silence.
But I see value in Duchesne's own approach, and have even followed that method from time to time. One of the highlights of my graduate studies was reading Hans Blumenberg's Legitimacy of the Modern Age in a reading group with Lionel Jensen, Tom Long, and a couple of other brilliant individuals -- each of them towering over me intellectually -- and we read the text closely, aloud to each other, slowly, discussing each point, with each participant bringing his particular expertise to bear. I learned more from that year-long reading group than from any other single learning experience ever.
Duchesne's own book, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, should probably be approached similarly . . .