Thursday, June 23, 2016

Call to Arms

In his prologue to The Man Who Knew Infinity, Robert Kanigel writes, 

"In a way, then, this is also a story about social and educational systems, and about how they matter, and how they can sometimes nurture talent and sometimes crush it. How many Ramanujans, his life begs us to ask, dwell in India today, unknown and unrecognized? And how many in America and Britain, locked away in racial or economic ghettos, scarcely aware of worlds outside their own?"

If that is not a call to arms, fellow educators and sociologists, to seek out and nurture young minds and spirits, I'm not sure what is. People often ask, "Why?" When I tell them I teach math and science to 9, 10, and 11 year olds. "When you could do so much more at upper school or university." Why? Because if no one is there to ignite their passion for the subject and its adventure, my colleagues of older students will have nothing to work with. My students' innocence and naïvety remind me of Ramanujan who came to Trinity with his inspiration, creativity and passion for numbers. Littlewood once said of Ramanujan, "Every natural number is a personal friend of his." My students come to me already mathematicians and scientists. What I bring to them is organization and communication skills while celebrating their awe and discovery.
I didn't start out sharing the quote to be quite so philosophical, really just wanted to put it out there, but it spoke to me and of the responsibility we have as educators to seek out and nurture those gifts of each and everyone of the students in our charge. And for us as "civilized, enlightened society" to ensure access to all minds and spirits to worlds they might otherwise not even know of.
Humbly submitted for your consideration and comment. mw

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