After 30 years of university "teaching," Carl Roger's personal thoughts seem more relevant than when I first read them. Reflecting on his words sent chills up and down my spine! From this viewpoint, contemporary education seems a dismal wasteland. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 120)

I wish to present some very brief remarks, in the hope that if they bring forth any reaction from you, I may get some new light on my own ideas.

I find it a very troubling thing to think, particularly when I think about my own experiences and try to extract from those experiences the meaning that seems genuinely inherent in them. At first such thinking is very satisfying, because it seems to discover sense and pattern in a whole host of discrete events. But then it very often becomes dismaying, because I realize how ridiculous these thoughts, which have much value to me, would seem to most people. My impression is that if I try to find the meaning of my own experience it leads me, nearly always, in directions regarded as absurd.

During my university career, I was on the outside looking in since I never felt at home in the academic community. For several years, I attended professional meetings in management science and then general management. I quit going when it was clear I did not share a community of interest with either group. Most of what happened at those meetings was meaningless to me.

So in the next three or four minutes, I will try to digest some of the meanings which have come to me from my classroom experience and the experience I have had in individual and group therapy. They are in no way intended as conclusions for some one else, or a guide to what others should do or be. They are the very tentative meanings, as of April 1952, which my experience has had for me, and some of the bothersome questions which their absurdity raises. I will put each idea or meaning in a separate lettered paragraph, not because they are in any particular logical order, but because each meaning is separately important to me.

Therapy at its best was another form of education. Anytime I worked with a skilful counselor, I experienced growth and learning. As my classroom style matured, my emphasis shifted to providing a setting for personal growth regardless of the course topic.

a. I may as well start with this one in view of the purposes of this conference. My experience has been that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run, futile.

I was angry for being thrown into the classroom as a teaching assistant without any preparation. Just days before the first meeting, I was told I had responsibility for the class. Later I realized that rather than being betrayed, that was the best thing that could have happened. I had to sink or swim learning as I went.

b. It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential, and has little or no significant influence on behavior. This sounds so ridiculous I can't help but question it at the same time that I present it.

In my early classes, I relied on true-false, fill in the blank and multiple choice tests that were supposed to have "objective" answers. I realized that wasn't always true and more significantly that the tests were suited only for factual knowledge that was soon forgotten or superseded by new developments. In the long run, facts mattered little and had no significant impact on student behavior.

c. I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior. Quite possibly this is simply a personal idiosyncrasy.

I was learning how to create an environment for a technical computer course which exposed students to material that would positively affect their behavior. This led to my initiating the first university certificate program. In it computer professionals returned to school to discover and apply new ideas to work projects.

d. I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influences behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.

Unless I provided an environment in which students discovered meaning for themsleves relative to the subject and made that a part of their being, significant learning would not take place. I brought a rolling library to each certificate program class to stimulate students to choose materials that were spontaneously interesting to them.

e. Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another. As soon as an individual tries to communicate such experience directly, often with a quite natural enthusiasm, it becomes teaching, and its results are inconsequential. It was some relief recently to discover that Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, had found this too, in his own experience, and stated it very clearly a century ago. It made it seem less absurd.

Even university students could learn in response to the natural curiosity Maria Montessori recognized in her work with preschool children. Given the right setting, I found self initiated enthusiasm if the students were not too blase about the school experience. I could lecture until I was blue in the face, but nothing consequential happened until students personally engaged the subject.

f. As a consequence of the above, I realize that I have lost interest in being a teacher.

My university career began with pride in being called professor, but that slowly soured. Then I liked being called a teacher, but that also lost its luster. More recently I referred to myself as a facilitator. Now that does not ring true. I have not found a term that describes my emergent role - for now "guide" captures the spirit.

g. When I try to teach, as I do sometimes, I am appalled by the results, which seem a little more than inconsequential, because sometimes the teaching appears to succeed. When this happens I find that the results are damaging. It seems to cause the individual to distrust his own experience, and to stifle significant learning. Hence I have come to feel that the outcomes of teaching are either unimportant or hurtful.

h. When I look back at the results of my past teaching, the real results seem the same - either damage was done, or nothing significant occurred. This is frankly troubling.

The more effective I was as measured by student scores on objective examinations, the less value I had in the classroom. To the degree I diminished a student's experience, to that extent, I harmed them. Through commission by omission, I cheated them out of the opportunity to learn. I wondered what efforts led to positive results?

i. As a consequence, I realize that I am only interested in being a learner, preferably learning things that matter, that have some significant influence on my own behavior.

As the years passed, I spent more time emphasizing I was a student. Sometimes I asserted that I might learn more than anyone else. This was hard to say since my stature as a professor was compromised - after all was I not supposed to be the "smart" one? Perhaps not!

j. I find it very rewarding to learn, in groups, in relationships with one person as in therapy, or by myself.

Learning took place when I codiscovered with my students deeper levels of personal meaning for the course themes. Through our relationship, I learned more about the topic and discovered new ways to present the material. From class to class and term to term, my comprehension increased and my appreciation deepened.

k. I find that one of the best, but most difficult ways for me to learn is to drop my own defensiveness, at least temporarily, and to try to understand the way in which his experience seems and feels to the other person.

As an academic trained to be an expert, this was a hard won behavior. Only in later years was I able to tell a class that I did not know and ask them what they thought instead. Gradually I openly acknowledged when I learned something from a student.

l. I find that another way of learning for me is to state my own uncertainties, to try to clarify my puzzlements, and thus get closer to the meaning that my experience actually seems to have.

My classes were a laboratory where I expressed tentative discoveries about the subject. Being challenged by and trying to comprehend their work, students pushed me to new depths of understanding. If I taught two sections of the same course, the second class benefited from what I tried in the first class and modified for the second.

m. This whole train of experiencing, and the meanings that I have thus far discovered in it, seem to have launched me on a process which is both fascinating and at times a little frightening. It seems to mean letting my experience carry me on, in a direction which appears to be forward, toward goals that I can but dimly define, as I try to understand at least the current meaning of that experience. The sensation is that of floating with a complex stream of experience, with the fascinating possibility of trying to comprehend its ever changing complexity.

Writing this memoir brought me face to face with the complex stream of experience making up the magic carpet fabric that brought me from birth to this point in time. I do not know what direction my new career initiative will take. What I learn from this process will orient me to those opportunities.

I am almost afraid I may seem to have gotten away from any discussion of learning, as well as teaching. Let me again introduce a practical note by saying that by themselves these interpretations of my own experience may sound queer and aberrant, but not particularly shocking. It is when I realize the implications that I shudder a bit at the distance I have come from the commonsense world that everyone knows is right. I can best illustrate that by saying that if the experiences of others had been the same as mine, and if they had discovered similar meanings in it, many consequences would be implied.

My departure from the academic world came at an auspicious time. I had gone so far out that I no longer fit in. I was definitely a fish out of water. It was time to find new career meanings.

a. Such experience would imply that we would do away with teaching. People would get together if they wished to learn.

YES! I returned once again to Maria Montessori's astute observation that children (and adults) will learn what they need to learn if left alone in an appropriately prepared environment. My role had become that of learning environment architect.

b. We would do away with examinations. They measure only the inconsequential type of learning.

YES! Starting with objective tests, I gradually supplemented them with essay questions. In turn the objective portion was dropped in favor of essay only. In the last few years, I gave up examinations all together and replaced them with journals and integrating essays.

c. The implication would be that we would do away with grades and credits for the same reason.

YES! At times giving a grade seemed the height of arrogance. Who was I to judge what a student had learned. As my examination style matured and gave way altogether, grades came to reflect my sense of a student's commitment to and the depth of their self discovery. I had little interest in so called objective knowledge.

d. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks an end or a conclusion of something, and a learner is only interested in the continuing process of learning.

Even though I pursued the highest degree at the "best" school that accepted my application, in the final analysis, I was jumping through the hoops to get a "union card" to follow my chosen career. Without credentials, I could not teach at the university level.

e. It would imply doing away with the exposition of conclusions, for we would realize that no one learns significantly from conclusions.

At the deepest level, openings rather than closings characterize the human journey to inner knowing. Conclusions that closed off expression stood in the way of reconnecting with The Intuitive Self. To fully be who I really was, I had to discover rather than conclude.

I think I had better stop there. I do not want to become too fantastic. I want to know primarily whether anything in my inward thinking as I have tried to describe it, speaks to anything in your experience of the classroom as you have lived it, and if so, what the meanings are that exist for you in your experience.

I appreciated Carl Rogers' wisdom more than ever. He clearly articulated subtle and half formed feelings about teaching and learning that were in my subconscious. He gave voice to my experience. He inspired me to build on these discoveries.