Michael Novak offers one of the coolest things I’ve read on teaching & communicating

I’m trying to think of this in terms of how to prepare to teach — and in terms of how I can misperceive others.

“Imagining is the chief mediating agent for both experiencing and understanding. It plays the same crucial role for our acting. It is the most ‘human’ operation. It stands between raw experience and intelligence. It is most central in its location and powerful in its effects.

“Often a teacher notices that students do no understand a point because their imaginations have arranged their experience so as to direct them toward some other point. Often mutual understanding depends on one’s ability to grasp what is happening in the imagination of the other party in the discussion. Insights are highly personal and follow personal laws; they always occur in connection with concrete images. The discerning of a faulty imaginative expectation and the construction of a good one enormously raise the probabilities of insight. A good teacher works to create images that are attractive, surprising, close to lived experience. A sequence of such images will bear the searching intelligence along the stream toward the flash of light.

“Conscious attention to the life of the imagination is nine-tenths of pedagogy. The teacher, like poets and other artists of the imagination, live by his or her capacity to become aware of, to differentiate, to criticize, and to create imaginative forms. Far too little attention is given in Western science, philosophy, and theology to the imagination.”

— Michael Novak, Ascent of the Mountain, Flight of the Dove (1971)

2 responses to “Michael Novak offers one of the coolest things I’ve read on teaching & communicating

  1. That is so insightful. When are you planning to teach?


  2. Thanks, Austin. I’ve been thanking God that I came across that quote — and it’s in a book I’ve had for years but haven’t read (true of most of my unwieldy library!). I am an adjunct English instructor at Coastal Carolina University, so I teach mostly freshman-level composition/composition and literature classes, as well as some sophomore-level courses. But I’m not a PhD or a tenure-track guy. I have a master of fine arts in creative writing and 11 previous years in the newspaper biz, so they let me teach!