Thursday, January 04, 2007

Best of all Possible Worlds?

Listening to Leonard Bernstein's opera Candide this morning on KWAX, (It's been Leonard Bernstein week on "Exploring Music") reminded me of the most difficult paper I wrote at Bryn Mawr: a critique of Voltaire's Candide in their version of first year composition (FYC). I had no idea what I was doing, and in my innocence I assumed that the instructor would show me what to do, because, after all, this was Bryn Mawr College, "best of all possible worlds." But the instructor, who did not usually teach freshmen, apparently had no idea how to help and clearly no intention of helping either. This was before writing centers became common on college campuses, so I had few resources. What a torment - truly an "auto da fe" a painful act of faith. The vivid memory of this experience is key to my dedication to spend as much time helping students as they want, to give them whatever they need to understand and complete their essays. I would say, however, that since then all has indeed been "for the best."


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