What is the first law of teaching, and the last? I think it is that you have to try to make them want what you’re trying to give them. There are many other things, specially when it come to actually giving what you give, but at the moment I think this is the one that draws the line between a good and a bad teacher. The teacher that made me want the thing, was good, the one that failed was not destined to succeed at teaching much. And I think that if you don’t realize this, you are bound to be bad as a teacher. A student who doesn’t need you to do that, who wants it already, will learn from you, and you can stick around in some disciplines and subjects. And bad teachers take it for granted that that’s the student’s responsibility, because who can reach into anothers heart? And they’re partly right, but no enought. I think you’re on the way to being far more successful of a teacher if you know you have to try to make them want what you’re trying to give them.
Of course there are the ethics of it, which makes me think of advertising–though perhaps that’s too much of a mix. Advertising is like evangelicalism, opportunistic about its means. It knows you have to want whatever you’re going to get, and it goes about it in the quickest way. But a teacher cannot be opportunistic. Opportunism is not wisdom, and at least teaching ought to be on the side of wisdom. Opportunism is a kind of insight about means, but without the corresponding insight of the ends. And there are ways of wanting, some of which get at the thing, some of which handle it a little while and then lose the grip of true lasting interest. Some ways of wanting are only about the subject that wants, and do not nourish in that subject a desire that corresponds to the object, but only a transitory and desultory wanting that is continually vitiated, and requires endless change or deeper perversion.