Formation

Stanley Fish writes, in Save the World On Your Own Time:

On more than one occasion I have had an experience which many professors will recognize.  A student you haven’t seen in years rushes up to you and says, “Oh, Professor, I think so often of that class in 1985 (or was it 1885?) when you said X and I was led by that to see Y and began on that very day to travel the path that has now taken me to success in profession Z.  I can’t thank you enough!”
You, however, are appalled, because you can’t imagine yourself ever saying X (in fact, you remember spending the entire semester saying anti-X) and you would never want anyone to exit from your class having learned Y (a lesson you have been preaching against for twenty years) and you believe everyone would be better off if profession Z disappeared from the face of the earth.

An old student came to see me today.  He said my courses had changed his life:  he is converting to Roman Catholicism.  This came out in a conversation in which I was criticizing Flannery O’Connor for offering, in all her stories, a choice between Christ and nihilism — no other options.  My old student said, “but isn’t that the truth?”

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