In my Cervantes class, we keep discussing what the truth is. Who is the source of truth? Who decides what the truth is?
A simple question, I said. Is Don Quixote a knight-errant? (Is that the word in English? In Spanish it’s caballero andante). Is he or is he not?
Well, depends on who you ask, say the students.
I’m asking you, I said. Is he or is he not?
Well, in his own mind…
That’s not my question, though. The question is, is he a knight-errant?
Well, if he thinks he is, it’s true for him.
OK, I said. What if Pete here decides he’s the professor and I’m a student and starts assigning homework?
At this point, of course, everybody laughed, and Pete more than anybody.
We also talked about hierarchies.
Are hierarchies good? I asked.
No! Bad! Everybody should be equal!
OK, I said. Then how come you are sitting here because I said you must and if I tell you we are all getting up and going to the lab to do writing activities, you will all do it? Where’s the equality?
Again, everybody laughed.
Teaching Cervantes is easy because the class practically teaches itself. There’s so much to talk about, and these are topics that interest everybody. People kept telling me I’d never get 10 students to sign up because it’s not a required course, there’s too much reading, the language is very hard, there’s a mountain of writing, and why wouldn’t the students prefer the Advanced Conversation course that’s taught at the same time? If you get fewer than 10, the class gets cancelled.
Well, I ended up with 16 students in the course, which is one more than the enrollment cap of 15. (We keep our language classes small to make sure everybody learns and gets to speak in every class session). The idea that students don’t care about “old books” is stupid. They care if you make them care.
6 thoughts on “The Source of Truth”
When I was a student (back during the Nixon administration) I always chose my courses — at least the ones I had any choice about — based on who was teaching them. These days, when I buy courses from The Teaching Company I choose them based on who is teaching them. The students at your school seem to be employing the same strategy.
One of the things I love about Quixote is that he might be crazy but, in a strange way, he is also the smartest person in the book. A less intelligent person would not have been able to think of ways to continue to justify his personal reality.
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And he also creates stories. The aesthetic order stands above the ethical order. Creating beauty is more important than even being a nice person. He helps people create stories. That’s a redeeming quality if there ever was one.
Whatever the source of truth is, thinking there should be only one is a bad idea because it will be Putin.
But what if it’s not a person? What if there are things that just are, independent of human will?
Well, obviously there are but nobody can be an expert at everything, so you still have to rely on other people for things you don’t know personally.