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Teaching genius . . . does it come in a can?

"Why not make a videotape of Doc?" a parent was suggesting. The faculty was losing an outstanding teacher. Doc has an exceedingly rare gift: Not only can he communicate mathematics -- even calculus -- to students who think themselves to be stupid in such a subject; he can even inspire a love and pleasure for math in students who previously though they hated it.

But can you collect Doc in a can? True, a movie might be valuable to students whose inclination to learn is already a habit. But could it preserve the living presence of his teaching genius?

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"Why not?" the parent asked. After all, this is an audiovisual age!

A member of the faculty answered: "The relationship of a teacher with a particular student or class is as sensitive, as delicate, as the rapport of a particular performing artist with his particular audience [in contrast to a mass audience]. A genuine teacher must perform as an artist."

A teacher must call the individual out of the mass! that is the challenge.

Many a scholar may know as much mathematics as Doc does. Probably very, very few can make mathematics both clear and beautiful -- particularly to those who have never thought rigorously before or to those conditioned to believe they can't learn the stuff.

Once I experimented with some excellent films on literary classics, featuring celebrated scholars, from whom I personally learned much. Yet one of my students -- hardly the best grademaker -- blurted out one day:

"Why can't we get back to class and discuss things ourselves?"

"Living Docs" are required in real schools. Even books are "only secondary" -- as Albert Einstein insisted -- however "indispensable" books may be.

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The live human being is the best and always will be the best teaching aid for those who are also human. He's even indispensable for programming a computer.

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