That art originated in play is a common saying. Whether or not the saying is historically correct, it suggests that harmony of mental playfulness and seriousness describes the artistic ideal. When the artist is preoccupied overmuch means and materials, he may achieve wonderful technique, but not the artistic spirit par excellence. When the animating idea is in excess of the command of method, aesthetic feeling may be indicated, but the art of presentation is too defective to express the feeling thoroughly. . . . That teaching is an art and the true teacher an artist is a familiar saying. Now the teacher's own claim to rank as an artist is measured by his ability to foster the attitude of the artist in those who study with him . . . (John Dewey, How We Think, 219-220).
Note: I began this post back in May, but just looked at it again in the context of the paper I'm writing on teaching Intro to Lit. I've added the second paragraph, which is mostly John Dewey, to the first, written earlier. Timothy Burke taught a course called The History of Reading last semester & has drawn insights out of that experience that are relevant to all of us who teach in the humanities. At the heart of Burke's essay are two questions, one developmental, one causal: 1) When do students who would otherwise take pleasure in reading begin to find reading a chore? 2) Why does that happen? (And is "education," broadly defined, responsible for the loss?) Interestingly, my colleagues in Clarkson's Department of Humanities & Social Sciences have been holding a series of meetings & workshops over the last few days dealing with our new first-year course, the Clarkson Seminar. I haven't been able to attend all the meetings because I am still wrestling my Understanding Vietnam into an on-line version using Blackboard for the coming summer term, which starts in ten days, but these are questions we need to ask & keep asking. Dewey's notion of thought as being "awake" & "alert" is relevant here. Burke talks about teaching as an art, as does John Dewey. In How We Think, Dewey addresses teachers directly & asks them to bcome artists: