Letters to myself: I know you’re still alive, and you’re in your eighties just like I am. I want to converse with you about this time in our lives, a time that we share. But you’re not a writer. Might I pretend that you are me, and that I can write for you as me, asking you about things about me as if you were me, and as me I therefore know all about you/me? And there is your wife, my wife, and about her I know little. I’ll talk about her but she won’t be what either one of us might say.
There is only education for individuals, and civilization like education, is only for individuals, and only individuals can achieve it. So what do these truths or statements mean? that individual accomplishment is all there is. What about the United States? And its greatness? Is its greatness anything more than the sum of the millions of accomplishments of individuals? Or is the pie greater than its pieces? I would have to go against the multitude and say no.
There is a passage in Plato’s Apology, where Socrates says that after discussing with someone he started thinking…
[τούτου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐγὼ σοφώτερός εἰμι· κινδυνεύει μὲν γὰρ ἡμῶν οὐδέτερος οὐδὲν καλὸν κἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι, ἀλλ᾽ οὗτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴομαι· ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.] I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.
Khan Academy is looking for good teachers, or rather tutors. And I thought to myself, could I be one of them? Well no, I quickly said, because I don’t know any one subject well enough to explain and teach. Have lived more than 83 years and there’s nothing I know well enough to effectively share it with someone else. I’m without knowledge, have only opinions.
The students came waiting for me to tell, or teach them something. I came wanting to help them learn, although I knew just how little I knew about the things they probably wanted to learn. When I gave them a choice they stopped coming. Only my own children keep coming, but don’t talk about all they have learned, only how much they still love us.