Showing posts from October, 2013

on teaching, smartness, and empathy

One of my favorite quotes from Cedric Villani, the Fields Medalist and mathematics professor at UC Berkeley who spoke at TEDxOrangeCoast along with my sister and me in September, was one about teaching--to paraphrase, he said that he wasn't doing his job if he made people feel dumb when he was talking to them. True teaching, he said, was making people see a complex issue as simple. It clicked with me because it made total sense, and it distinguishes between good teachers vs. the folks who interject to "help" someone when in truth they're just trying to emphasize how smart they are. (Of course, there are also just folks who genuinely don't know how to simplify things.)

I guess this came to mind because I was thinking of all the teachers I've had. Undoubtedly, the best have been the ones who treat everyone with respect, never assuming that one person is somehow less capable of learning a subject than another. Across the disciplines, there are teachers who make…

Sweet sixteen and we had arrived

The similarities between my life and the Lana Del Rey song ("This Is What Makes Us Girls") ends with the blog post's titular line, but I like the song...

"Sweet sixteen and we had arrived
Walking down the streets as they whistle, "Hi, hi!"
Stealin' police cars with the senior guys
Teachers said we'd never make it out alive"

It continues in that vein. But don't worry, I'm not going to model my life here on out after Lana's narrator (much as I find "stealin' police cars" and "drinking cherry schnapps at the local dive" to be intellectually engaging pursuits). The cultural significance of sixteen has a lot to do with the tradition of cotillion balls (thank the deep South for that)--the idea that you "made your debut" at this age. Clearly, I made my debut--albeit one of a different sort--a bit earlier. Which leads me to write this.

One of my best friends wrote on my wall that I was too young, and that…