P.K. Rangachari/Stacey Ritz
“When you set out for Ithaka ask that your way be long/Full of adventure, full of instruction.” So begins C.P. Cavafy’s oft-quoted poem, Ithaka. Though the metaphor of a journey has often been used for a student’s passage through an educational system, it applies equally well to their teachers. Promises and perils dot their way. Student-centered learning is often touted as a panacea for educational ills but can quickly slide into self-indulgence. So, teachers need to steer carefully through the twin Scylla of standardised tests and the Charybdis of self-indulgent learning.
This collection is a tribute to Delsworth Harnish, a master navigator through the treacherous waters of academia. He knew all the rules and broke them with impunity. He set up programmes that fostered self-directed learning and was quite averse to standardised testing, which he felt stifled true learning. He had a particular fondness for Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity. When we decided to gather together essays to honour his memory, we asked contributors to consider several themes. These included the possibilities of promoting student-centred learning in a standard-based world, dimensions of subversive teaching in our troubled times, and the subtler notion of justice.
We asked contributors to think about these issues and write about them in a personal way. We wanted the essays to capture Del’s interests but be true to his spirit as well. He was quirky, often elliptic and impatient with the pedantic formal. We gave licence to the contributors to write about these themes in any way they chose. We wanted an unprescribed collection, even to the point of having no set pattern for the references, in case authors chose to use them.
Bacon felt that “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” What readers make of this collection is up to them. We wanted this book to be browser-friendly. The essays in this book have no set style—many are riffs on the themes we have mentioned, others take on a more formal hue. If it all adds up to a patchwork quilt, so be it. Del Harnish would have liked it that way.