09 March 2012

Into the Unknown

Say you're a teacher.

Say you're working with students.

Say you're a teacher for students and the class you're teaching is history.

Say that.

Assuming these are the premises, you may also assume the following: there is something specific you want to teach them. The class should have a curriculum, and given that it is history it probably has a specified topic and time frame. "The French Revolution, 1789-1799." "The Development of the Nuclear Bomb, 1939-1945." "Wars and Conflicts, 1900-today."

In addition, the specificness of which you presumably want to teach, is tied to the craft of your profession: the historian. Because it is a craft, a set of rules, certain points without which you will not be able to perform your work properly.

And then you have the Odd Bull (inside joke). The stray dog that breaks the rules, and plans to get away with it.

Granted, some do. Think Picasso.

But most don't.

And those who do, get away with it because they break the rules in a smart way. They break the right kind of rules.

The reason they can do that is that they know the rules. They know the craft. They have learned it, first, and then they derrive from it.

"Be precise!"

"Be specific!"

"Don't assume that the reader can follow you line of thought!"

"Never leave a quote hanging. Your interpretation of it, and your reasoning as to why it is important isn't obvious to the rest of us. If you cannot explain why the quote should be there, it shouldn't be there. If it doesn't express specifically something you cannot say just as well with your own words, you should say it with your own words."

I know the rules. I know the craft. At least I'm supposed to. What I know that I know, though, is this: I know that I don't follow the rules. Not now. Because I am not specific. I am not clear. You do not follow. My arguments are weak, my reasoning reasonless.

And the reason I can do this is not that I know the rules, but that I know that there are no rules. This is not my craft, after all; this is not a academic, history paper. This is a blog.

Say you're a teacher. Say you're working with students. Say your work as a teacher is making your head so full of analysis and rules and academic upholstery that you have no desire to make sense anymore. Say that.


Unknown said...

The only thing good about these kind of rules are breaking them :)

ViolaNut said...

I always tell my students that they need to learn the rules so they understand how and when to break them. Seems to work. ;-)

Shaharizan Perez said...

I love this post! Then again, I am a teacher so I can totally relate. There are days that I wish there were no rules like when it's gorgeous outside and I want to teach class from a park bench or large park lawn. :D

Again, great post!