The first page of the syllabus had rules about how we were going to behave, rules about the classroom. In order to learn we had to build spaces. They were artificial, man-made, they were not natural. Learning is an unnatural act, difficult, not easily done, so we had to be very careful about the space […]

Here was another rule: you kept your ego outside. This was a place where we would be brutally honest with each other but we wouldn’t be unkind. We wouldn’t be inhumane. The classroom was a special place. We had to work hard. He thought learning changed you. It wasn’t what you memorized. It wasn’t the […]

He used Plato’s metaphor of the cave as a way he understood the learning process and it was about going from darkness to light. In the cave, when you were dark everything was close, it was comfortable. You didn’t know it was dark. It was dark, but you didn’t know it and so you went […]

I have heard it said, by people who would know, that Williams has had no class to equal the class of ’60, before or since.

This was a time when being evaluated was a question of authority. How are you as my professor capable of understanding the work I’ve done? Bob dismissed those. Bob used grades simply as a way of keeping score, but they were not important. What was more important is whether we were learning, and there wasn’t […]

“Don, where did you come from?” “Tell me about your brother.” “Tell me about your sister.” “How was your father educated? “ “What’s your mother’s family like?” “Are your people close to each other? “ “What’s your economic outlook on life?” This was the mosaic that he would put together of you as his student. […]

His course on public authority, which was a year course, early ’70s, questions of authority were up for grabs. How did we understand parental authority? How did we understand the authority of the institution of Williams College? How did we understand the legitimacy of the act of voting and all the rest? And those were […]

Fall semester of my junior year, in the middle of all this chaos, he gave a lecture on courtesies, manners, why they were important and what that had to do with the notion of authority. I’ll never forget it. The place was packed. I remember saying, “Courtesy, what is this, a finishing school?” And yet […]

Not everybody enjoyed his classroom. There was something unfinished about it when you were done. The consequences of having this sort of 24-hour-a-day conversation called “the work of the class” meant that it put an extraordinary burden on the student who was wrestling with other courses. It never resolved itself. There was no ending, no […]

Were you wealthy and therefore could afford a different perspective? Were you poor and became cannon fodder? All those were difficult questions. We at Williams College in those days who were enjoying student deferments didn’t want to hear anything of the sort. But he was subversive. He was very much prepared to take on all […]


Final Note