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5 Responses to “Please share some important moments or memories you had inside and or outside the class room.”
In each of the classes I took with Jim Behuniak, he set aside the last day for discussion of the take-home final exam. The catch was that he elected not to be present. We were on our own. The first time this happened, he was around for just the first minute or so of class, and I had the sneaking suspicion that once he left the room, many of my classmates would follow suit. They would have in high school. But nobody did. Not one person. And we didn’t just sit around talking about Loudness or whatever; we did what Jim wanted us to, and batted around ideas about the final. Not all of them were good, probably, but we took it seriously.
Anyway, the second time Jim left us alone, I got to be one of the guys with a knowing grin as some younger students looked vaguely wary that there was a catch. We were more productive that time, maybe because more of us were veterans of Behuniak classes. We even managed to produce a class study guide.
Okay, yes, our GPAs depended on our being prepared. But that rarely stops anyone from being an idiot or a slacker if he’s already so inclined, and I honestly believe that our collective willingness to stick around and be serious was fueled in part by the respect Jim demonstrated for us throughout the semester(s), by the sense of fun he’d injected into every class period (which maybe made this feel less weird than it might have otherwise felt), and by the trust he put in us by acting as if leaving us alone was the most normal thing in the world. His attitude was one of certainty that we had everything under control, that by semester’s end his presence wasn’t really necessary for either pedagogical or disciplinary reasons, that the final itself was mostly a formality. A formality whose outcome he was curious to see, certainly, but not just for evaluative reasons: he was genuinely interested in what we had to say. It was like Jim considered us equals, even though we all knew that we weren’t.
When it came down to it, I don’t think we wanted to let Jim down.
M.A. ’12, Department of Philosophy
University of New Mexico
(Colby College ’09, Honors and Distinction in Philosophy)
Wow… there were several. I loved Moral Philosophy with Prof. Tony Cunningham. It was where I was first introduced to Kant (my son’s middle name is Immanuel). The next year when Jill and Cheshire came to Colby I thoroughly enjoyed Ancient and Modern Philosophy. The discussions and challenges were fascinating.
PL 353 (Analytic) was a class that we’d heard about from older philosophy majors. They’d complain about how hard it was. I remember thinking that they had to be exaggerating. **They weren’t** You’d be in class hanging on to a few phrases that you could understand and then be excited the next week when maybe a few paragraphs made more sense. Wittgenstein is not to be approached lightly. I remember asking fellow students if they were just as foggy and everyone struggled the first several weeks, but eventually we made headway.
I was able to do independent study courses with Dan on Machiavelli and with Jill on Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. I remember a upper level ethics class (I think PL 311 at the time) with Cheshire that had only 4-5 students, but it was sooo intense. Cheshire would always ask us to elaborate on our points, to take them to their logical conclusion and would always play devil’s advocate.
In Jill’s classes you could see how much you really loved philosophy. Her knowledge, openness and enthusiasm were right there. Socrates is a lifelong friend, his ideas, his questions, his wit.
No exaggeration, Jill Gordon is one of the most important people to me in my life. She doesn’t just communicate the material effectively, she communicates the love for the life of the mind. To this day I’ll still come to her with a philosophical concern.
A week into taking her existentialism seminar I had to deal with a tragedy at home. I dreaded coming back to Colby and having to deal with anything by Sartre or Nietszche. But I couldn’t drop the class she hesitantly let me take as a freshman. Where I thought I was going to be further depressed, I was emboldened, and inspired. I ended up doing an independent study with her the following Jan-Plan on Black existential thought. Between those two courses, her seminar on Marx, and her Seminar on Plato, I can’t look anywhere in my own intellectual development that doesn’t have her fingerprint. As I write this on the top shelf is a collection of Plato’s Dialogues and Turning Toward Philosophy by Jill Gordon. She highlighted the literary aspects of Plato, the elements that compel us toward a more philosophical life. For a young spoken word artist who loved literature and philosophy, her perspective was a revelation. It was transformative.
Jill Gordon’s Marxism seminar was one of the best courses I took at Colby. Marxism has transfigured the modern world to a fathomless extent, and Political Science programs do not make an adequate effort to facilitate students’ understanding of the worldview. Though holding some of Ricardo and Malthus’ more dubious assumptions, Marx was nonetheless the first observer to treat the dynamic relationship between ideas and power in a systematic way, and grasp the *political* significance of allegedly value-free economic doctrines. (The critique of ideology remains illuminating in the twenty-first century). He also forecast the emergence of giant industrial conglomerates when they were still in their embryo, and knew that this emergence would be the hidden cause of the horrible social dislocations–often in the guise of cultural and national conflict–that were to take place as capitalism matured.
Jill’s class spurred me to revise some of my preconceived notions and see some value in sympathetically reading philosophers I had dogmatically dismissed. This highlights the best of what liberal arts education can offer young adults.
I was lucky enough both to attend Colby and teach there. Two of my very favorite memories have to do with Bob Reuman. When I was a senior, I was trying to figure out whether to go on in biology or philosophy for graduate study. Sometimes I used to make up my mind that I couldn’t possibly spend my life teaching the same philosophy classes year after year, particularly when I could be spending my life in the great outdoors, chasing after snow leopards and such. And then Bob Reuman would walk into my Lovejoy classroom and everything would come alive. He changed my mind every time.
Ten years later, in my second year teaching at Colby, Bob and I went outside on a beautiful fall day and sat on a bench for a couple of hours. We talked philosophy, and there wasn’t anywhere in the world I wanted to be but right there on that bench with Bob. It wasn’t the teacher and student talking. Now it was just two people, enjoying each other’s intellectual company, searching together to figure things out, neither one taking the lead, but both helping the other see things. I often wish I could have one more glorious afternoon on that bench with Bob. I keep a picture of him in my office so he can watch over me and keep me honest. I was really lucky that I fell into philosophy at Colby, and luckier still that Bob Reuman was there.