Sunday, September 14, 2014

May Her Memory be a Blessing, Part II

To follow up on my previous, I went to Mrs. Maschler's memorial service this morning. I heard from her former colleagues and students and her daughters. And everyone speaking worked together to paint a picture of her. She was a woman who was incredibly blunt, and also incredibly interested in everyone she talked to. When you talked to her, she really listened. And when she told you that you were wrong and told you why (quite forcefully!) she did so not because she delighted in putting you in your place, but because she really took what you had to say seriously. She took -you- seriously. And she would hold up your words to the same (merciless) scrutiny that she applied to Sts Augustine and Paul or Kant. You were in the same boat as they were. You were not just some kid, you and your words mattered to her.

And because you mattered to her, your life mattered to her, and she would worry over it. She always thought I was not living up to my intellectual potential, working the job I did. But she said that because she really did care about me. And so it was, apparently, with everyone she knew.

I value kindness a lot. Which might be funny or hypocritical coming from me, I don't know. And I generally take little stock in people that are blunt or abrupt because they are 'being honest'. But from her, telling you that you were -wrong- sir, that was a kindness. It was a mark of respect. I will never forget that.

May her memory be blessed.

And if I may be abstract, I think my experience with Chaininah is instructive.  All my life I was told I was smart and special and was awarded parts on the back for doing as well as could be expected for someone of my years.  Chaininah was a rare person who did not hold me to some kind of weighted 'pretty smart for a punk kid' standard, but held me to the same standard that she held the great minds of history.  And perhaps that's what we need more of in our teachers and our education -- an attempt to take students seriously, to ask them to really put their minds out there and hold themselves up to no less standard than finding the truth.

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