Wednesday, November 7, 2018

50 Years A Teacher

Welcome to my World

I have had a fortunate life.  I have worked very hard to pass on the "secrets" of the trade as they have been entrusted to me by many wonderful teachers.  I am saddened that my mentors have passed on and I only have the memories of time spent at their feet.  Now it is my turn.  I firmly believe that if you leave this earth before you give away the lessons you have learned that it is a crime.

Since I was raised as a scientist in my early years, I believe in sharing all knowledge.  Only by working together in discovering facts and communicating with like minded researchers can this fragile civilization evolve.  Over the centuries men have taken secrets to their grave  and that only hurts our chances for understanding what it means to be alive.  The wonderful essence of the human race is that it thrives on information.  The next generation needs nourishment.  That is our responsibility.

When I started teaching many years ago, California provided life time certificates for teachers.  They no longer do that, for some reason.  However, I have them on the wall above my desk.  I am qualified by the state to teach the following subjects (for life!);

Physics, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, Antiques, Decorative Arts and Related Technologies, Art History and Appreciation 1-3.  I don't have any certificate but I also teach Traditional French Marquetry in my own school.

I enjoy speaking in public and giving lectures.  It gives me purpose to research and prepare a talk, and satisfaction when it is delivered.  I have lost count of the many different groups who have asked me to make a presentation, over many years.

Recently, however, I had a request to speak which gave me a special emotion.  I was part of the first freshman class at UCSD in 1967.  Although the new campus had transferred upper division students in a few years before, we were the first freshman class to complete a full 4 year curriculum.  When we stepped on campus for the first time, we were greeted by the provost, Paul Saltman.  He stood up in front of a very small group of us young freshman and said, "I know you all are here thinking you will be scientists.  I know you all are outstanding students in math, chemistry, physics and other related fields.  However, I want you to know something.  By the time you graduate from this college you will all be Renaissance Men!"

I recall the murmuring among my fellow students at the time..."We don't want to be Renaissance Men, we just want to be Scientists!"

Personally, I just wanted to keep my student deferment so I wouldn't have to go to Viet Nam.  I decided to plan my studies so that I would stay in college for 5 years.  That meant I would delay my major (Physics) and front load as many other classes as I could in my minor (History).  I signed up for music, philosophy, religion, literature, history, and any class that looked interesting.  I learned a lot, and had some fantastic instructors.

Then, in 1968 the draft was instituted and I lost my 2S deferment and received a 1A draft card.  Fortunately, the lottery number I was given was 240, so it was unlikely that I would be drafted that year.  In order to draft me the government would have to draft everyone in 1969 and then go back to pick up the remainder of the 1A students in 1968.  Each year my chances were reduced, so I changed my plans and decided to graduate in the original 4 years.

That decision was difficult.  It was not a matter of cost, since in those early years an education was not expensive.  It was a matter of taking 24 and 26 units a quarter in my Junior and Senior year with only Physics, Math and Chemistry classes.  My brain started to turn to mush.  Although I was able to get passing grades in all my classes, when it came time for finals week, I was on a different planet.  I would take a 3 hour exam in Plasma Physics, then rush across campus to take a 3 hour exam in Calculus, then the next day repeat in different subjects.

I should remind you that this was a time when there were no such things as cell phones, hand held computers, or other digital aids.  Everything I learned was Analog:  think slide rules, pencil and paper.  Many of the Calculus problems would take pages and pages of hand written work to solve.  In one case, a group of us sat in the library trying to solve a problem on a take home test.  When we turned it into the teacher in class, I was designated by the group to ask the teacher how to solve problem #2.  We had not found a solution and wondered what was the answer.

He said, "There is actually no solution to problem 2.  I just take the papers and throw them down the stairs.  The ones that go the farthest are given the highest grades."

When I graduated in 1971 the school changed its policy and decided to allow computers to be used in class.  I was an analog thinker.  I spent my time in school with either a pencil and paper or a piece of chalk and a chalkboard.  I did not want to start over and join the digital revolution, which has now completely changed education as we know it.  We now have Artificial Intelligence.

So when I was invited to speak at UCSD recently, it was an interesting mix of old memories and new environments, as the school has grown into one of the top schools in the country, many times larger than the size of the Revelle College campus I attended years ago.  In 1974 the Osher Institute was created, originally as a forum for "retired professionals" to share their experiences and knowledge.  I had no idea, as I had rarely returned to the school after graduation.

The Osher Institute asked me to speak on my work and philosophy and it gave me a chance to thank Paul Saltman for his encouragement, even though he was only a memory to those in the audience.  Here I was, a real Renaissance Man, living with the Workmanship of Risk, and demonstrating to those who attended that life can be rewarding and you can be successful working with your hands.

You may be interested in my talk.  It is an hour long.  With permission from the Osher Institute, I am posting it here: