7th March

No doubt there were some of Morrie's students who were impatient with his eccentric antics and educational experiments. I can imagine that Morrie would have his detractors in today's universities where students want value for money and lecturers are expected to impart their knowledge in easily digestible forms through handouts, overheads and the like. But beyond all this, Morrie's story also underlines what is at stake in higher education. Albom's lean and moving book reads like an extended epitaph. Towards the end Morrie expressed regret for the books he might have written but hadn't. These are sobering passages in the contemporary climate where the injunction to write looms large over academic departments.

As universities become more businesslike and we end up viewing our students as, at best, paying customers, or, at worst, distractions that keep us from the real work of writing and research, it is easy to forget that universities are also places where teachers can play a small role in helping students, not just through the curriculum, but in life itself. This is, of course, not a one-way process and I am often struck by how much I learn in supervisions and seminars. I am not sure 'who is teaching who' half the time. Tuesdays with Morrie is a reminder that sometimes things of enduring consequence happen for those on both sides of the lectern in the lecture hall.

In some quarters it has become fashionable to speak of ghosts and 'The Dead' in a clever or supercilious fashion. The great Peruvian poet C├ęsar Vallejo once wrote that


"nothing is possible in death, except on top of what is left in life." I think the written word is often an attempt to leave such traces. George Orwell claimed that one of the reasons he wrote was "to be remembered". What I find compelling about Morrie's story is that he chose to make his mark through teaching. The beautiful irony is that his student turned scribe and page by page transposed his spectral voice. And this, I think, is the miracle at the heart of this book.

"The function of the university is not simply to teach breadwinning"
Du Bois, W.E.B (1903)

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SPRING - 2005

10 March