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June 17, 2003
Teaching once and teaching hard

I'm impressed by this. It's one of my favourite people at the moment, Theodore Dalrymple, proving that teaching doesn't have to go on and on, build up a "relationship" etc, to have an effect. Often it can consist of saying one true and forcefully expressed thing, and moving on.

You know, you done me a lot of good when I was in jail, he said. I came to you for help. You said I didnt need no medicine, I just needed to decide not to come back. You said there was nothing wrong with me. I thought you was very hard, but you was right. Ive kept out of trouble for four years ever since. You spoke straight to me.

This bloke recognised Dalrymple when they met again, but Dalrymple didn't recognise him. And that's my point.

Dalrymple is obsessed with being right, and he mostly is, in my opinion. When he is right, and someone tells him he's right, he's pleased and he doesn't mind who knows it. I much prefer proud men with something to be proud about, than men who have nothing to be proud about and aren't. He is, in short, something of a show-off. He wades through the miseries of the underclass, telling it (and them) like it is, proud of being right, showing-off.

Show-offs can make excellent teachers.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:45 AM
Category: How to teach

Not sure that you wasn't hard on him hard there, Mr M.

I only know the good doctor from his writings but there both the force of his arguments and the quality of his prose has consistently impressed me.

Dalrymple comes across not as an obsessive but as a decent man who thinks we have lost more than we've gained over the past thirty or forty years. He is anti-liberal, something of a Whartonian with a conscience - though not a social one, thank God.

I am glad that you can find it in you to praise him. But I think he might prefer that as an educator you lent your energies to stopping the flow of created victims through his GP's surgery.

Comment by: Guessedworker on June 17, 2003 09:34 AM

I didn't "find it in me" to praise him. I praised him!

There's nothing wrong with being obssessed about truth and virtue, as I think he is, or he could not do what he does.

And there's nothing wrong with being proud of doing good deeds, as when he straightened this prisoner out by telling him an important truth.

Comment by: Brian Micklethwait on June 17, 2003 10:13 AM

Thanks for the reply, Brian. I'm not sure if being called a show off, even if correct, qualifies as praise. But no matter. You have met the man, which I haven't. I can only go by the content of his writings (their expression is very good, too - he is generally crystal clear but hardly an exhibitionist).

To my mind, Dalrymple is one of those natural conservatives who find little in modern life to celebrate and a great deal to regret. The tendency is for such voices to be written off as hopeless old fogeys and curmudgeons. But Dalrymple is different in that he is not a right-wing hack or an ageing, true-blue reactionary. He is actually engaged in picking up the broken pieces of our liberal society. His writings, therefore, are that much more authorative and relavent, and cry out for a political remedy.

I would like a lot more of us to cry out along with him, be it in education or any other social field. Specifically, I would like to see thinkers on the right slough off all the imprisoning, liberal-left culture claptrap and return to first principles. How about it?

Comment by: Guessedworker on June 18, 2003 11:43 AM
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