Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Randolph Bourne on discussion

These sentences are going on my syllabi for the fall:

A good discussion increases the dimensions of every one who takes part. Being rather self-consciously a mind in a group of minds means becoming more of a person.

Randolph Bourne, “On Discussion” (1916). In History of a Literary Radical and Other Essays, ed. Van Wyck Brooks (New York: Biblio & Tannen, 1969).
The essay is online at The New Republic. I found my way to Randolph Bourne’s work by means of Christopher Lasch’s Plain Style, which presents a short essay by Bourne to exemplify good writing.

comments: 3

Geo-B said...

And a discussion is an organic thing. As a teacher, I can see an idea emerging, growing on a person's face. Maybe it takes 20 minutes for that idea to develop, or 50 minutes. I continue the conversation and when it's ready, I call on that person. One can't do that in an internet course. There are skeptical faces and thinking faces, warming up faces and opposing faces. I orchestrate the conversation.
[By the way, your "please prove you're not a robot" things are crazy today. I was asked to "Type the two words" when one was hopelessly garbled and the other was a photograph of a kitchen.]

Jazzbumpa said...

A good discussion increases the dimensions of every one who takes part.

Clearly Mr. Bourne has never discussed politics, religion, nor economics.

The qualifier "good," though, might preclude any of those topics.

Still - I'm not certain I concede the point. Absolutist statements seldom [he said, carefully avoiding the use of "never"] hold up in the real world.


Michael Leddy said...

Geo-B, it’s Blogger that’s to blame. I was slightly staggered the first time I saw a photograph (of a house number, while leaving a comment on a Blogger blog).

JzB, yes, the word good is important there. But Bourne would have been discussing politics and culture all the time.