sort of think you should credit the teachers who taught you the
most. You certainly remember them, and since I teach too
nowadays, these are the people I try to emulate. Here are those I
learned the most from.
Eric Perlberg, International School of Basel
Eric Perlberg taught me in grades 7-8, he seemed to me something of a
wandering sage. He was from New York, was apparently single, kept
a beard, and maintained a small apartment in downtown Basel.
He played the guitar and was learning to draw. These were new and
shocking things to me in a teacher.
wish I could say that I was respectful to the sage from Woodstock, but
at that time I was overly resistant to any assertion of
authority. For example, Perlberg believed we should do homework
every evening, if only a little. I objected to this. To his
credit, Perlberg actually agreed with my arguments, and let me off
homework, so long as I agreed to sit and watch the sun set.
main deal was a contagious interest in things - especially art and
history in my memory. Every week he'd take us to the Kunstmuseum
(Art Museum) in Basel. We'd go to one or two rooms and just look
at the paintings really carefully.
was our science and computer science teacher at ASE 2, and more than
anything else, he made us all dream of being scientists. It was
hard to imagine a higher calling in his class, and for some reason
Kevin inspired an ambition that soared way beyond the classroom.
had his faults. He had favorites, and he made that obvious.
He wasn't always patient with students who didn't share his taste for
science, and he could suffer the occasional tantrum. I can
remember him breaking a hockey stick after losing a game, which
probably isn't in the teacher's manual. But middling
or forgettable, he never was.
says of Kevin that he was capable of encouraging us to learn stuff that
he didn't necessarily understand himself. That was
true: learning that went past his curriculum was what he liked
Dixon was our English and Creative Writing teacher at ASE 2.
She scared me sometimes. She scared all of us. But more
than anything else she made us write.
really believed in writing and acting as an expression of the soul. And
as unlikely as it may sound she believed that each of us students
possessed an innate capability to tap into a genius -- and that the
only problem was getting at it, opening up to what lay there.
this said, as a teacher, and as everyone knew, she wasn't exactly
perfect. Grades were somewhat random; the curriculum was
unspecified at best; her classes were something of a wandering
mystery. But when you look back, does that
matter? Not at all, not at all.
met Egusa in Taiwan in the 1980s, where he was a visiting
professor. While outwardly formal looking and serious, I
knew something was up when he rescued us from a boring family dinners to sneak off and play arcade games.
I only saw him about five times in my life, he was from the first
moment a guide and teacher of how life ought be led.
Egusa's main deal was that he took rapturous joy in everything he
did, even things that might seem normal to anyone else.
Once, for instance, we had cold chicken and beer on a beach in
Kamakura, and Egusa made out as if it were the greatest meal in
history. Or, as in this photo, he could be in total rapture
playing the violin -- poorly.
I was a second year at Harvard Law School I noticed a strange class
called “The Law of Cyberspace.” It looked weird. The
course description said, this is not a course about computers; this is
not about intellectual property; this is about Cyberlaw.
What on earth is that, I wondered? The professor was an obscure
visitor from the University of Chicago – no one had heard of him
strode into class with his black jeans and small glasses and pretty
soon I knew my life would never be the same. What a teacher Larry
was: original, shocking, impossibly charismatic, and
intense. Looking back Lessig's brilliance lay in how he
identified the stakes in what might have otherwise seemed the
routine. He saw in every decision a process that closed doors.
He had dedicated his life to understanding and challenging the
strongest thing of all: what is taken for granted.
Taking his class changed my life, and no surprise, and Larry was certainly my greatest mentor.
Posner taught me mostly how to write and how to think. I
realise that, before I met him I had only the vaguest inkling of how
each of these processes worked.
Posner is famous as a thinker, for me his aesthetics of writing were
much more influential. Posner cares about words.
And perhaps that's why the one think
Dick really did best was listen. He listened to what you had to say,
and got it, whether or not he did what you wanted. That listening installed a
confidence that remains.
credit Dahlia as the editor who taught me the most about
writing. Not always so much by intense feedback, but rather
by telling me when I was assuming to much; when I wasn't getting to the
point. I also imitated her, and I owe what parts of my
Slate style to Dahlia's example.
occasionally insert jokes into things I wrote. Inevitably,
friends would identify those jokes as the spirit of my wit.