Two major themes emerge early on in Part II of James Lang’s Cheating Lessons, themes that either complement or contradict each other depending on how one views it. In discussing Ken Bain’s research and the lessons that can be derived from it (What the Best College Teachers Do), the author pauses to stress the importance of asking “big questions” in class. Teachers and students alike share in the drive to answer life’s grandest conundrums – as Lang puts it, questions of “money and sex and morality” (63). These “big questions” are the impetus of every class no matter the subject, they are the driving force behind much of human pursuit and it’s the teacher’s responsibility to contextualize their subject in relation to this existential inquiry. Lang then piggyback’s on this proposal to declare, “…we have to first help students see the ways in which our course material connects meaningfully to our lives, or can help us solve problems or enrich our lives” (Lang 70). I interpret this to mean that on top of rooting the material in the grander philosophical debate on the phenomena of existence the teacher should also narrow the focus of the material’s aims to address the student’s present and future every day lives. The latter task constitutes the “’applied’ nature of our disciplines,” whereas the former task serves their unapplied, or inapplicable, characteristics (Lang 72). There is a distinct difference between these two “themes” – of a teacher’s obligation to speak to either the student’s existential yearning or his/her need for practical knowledge – and yet it seems one begets the other. Lang is tracing the learning curve from the “big questions,” through our disciplines and teaching material, and into the life-practice of every day. Erase the center step and we simply have an apt definition of ethics. What the author is so skillfully mapping out is both an education of ethics and an ethics of education. From the recognition of self and our existence in the world we gain the will to act in that world. Our disciplines act as the filters and flavors of this flow. In being reminded of this, we should also be reminded of the ethical nature of education, or rather that education plays such an integral role in the ethical process that they quickly become synonymous.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s