For many years, an Iowa State University political science professor and I met several times a year for coffee and conversation.
During our coffee klatches, I probed my friend’s thinking on world affairs, on government issues, and on politics in Iowa and across the United States. I suspect he tried to use these get-togethers to give me a something of a graduate-level seminar in American government, absent any lectures.
Educators these days are frequently accused of trying to indoctrinate their students with a particular point of view. But what I came to realize during those sessions at the Stomping Grounds coffee shop in Ames was fundamental to excellence in teaching: The professor did not tell me what to think. He tried to get me to think more clearly and to analyze with more sophistication and depth. He helped me spot weaknesses in my own opinions and develop a better understanding of factors that may lead other people to see things differently than I did.
After retiring, my friend sold his acreage and left Iowa for a more scenic place to live. Our caffeine intake has declined, but we still stay in touch via email. Last week, the professor’s Stomping Grounds “student” field-tested the professor’s method of posing challenging questions to get people to re-examine their own opinions and see why some people have a different view than other people.Continue Reading...