Rereading Moffett – Month Four

For me, interaction, at least in the way I believe I align with James Moffett, is that space between teacher and student, between the learned and the learning. It is that invisible space that crackles with possibility, like static electricity. It is the strange alchemy that can occur when teaching and learning coalesce and something happens, often expected and sometimes sublimely unexpected. It is synonymous with possibility and hope.

Photo: James MoffettI wish James Moffett was still with us. While his work is profound and revealing. There are still so many questions I wish I could ask him.

The more I investigate his opus Interaction, the more fascinated I become. As far as I can tell, there is just so much genius that unraveled at a moment in time waiting to be revived, renewed, and revisited. While the response in Kanawha County, West Virginia, to what-can-only-be-described as a textbook system proved a harbinger of so many of the kinds of controversies resurfacing in education today, the content also manages to hold an spellbinding prescience. If nothing else, the sheer audacity of the breadth and depth of what was assembled warrants the kind of review it is currently receiving, especially at University of California at Santa Barbara. I am just happy to have a small window on it, via the reading group.

Yet to be able to ask him about more pointed questions about the reasoning behind choices made in that massive assembly of pedagogy and program would be a masterclass nonpareil.

One of the things that I take away from our most recent reading group meeting, which has already become one of my all-time favorite National Writing Project endeavors, is just how much we still need Moffett’s voice today. While there are advocates, of course, we need more people to take up the mantle he fashioned in the field of education at his best. Still, his work continues to provide a powerful antidote to so much of the ed-reformy nonsense that pollutes the landscape of schooling today.

As I continue to read and re-read his work, I cannot help believe that he understood just how much every student/learner is engaged in a unique experience and failing to recognize, honor, and lean into that understanding is simply foolish. Yet, even that core understanding is profoundly inefficient, messy, recursive, and extraordinarily hard to convert into hard data, in most part, because it is so profoundly human.

Above all, to me, James Moffett was a deeply, earnest, and unwavering humanist.

Therein may be why I cannot stop drinking in his ideas and writing.