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McLaughlin, J.T. (1995). On Trying To Teach: The Mind in Correspondence. : By M. Robert Gardner. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. 1994. Pp. 163.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:1068-1070.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:1068-1070

On Trying To Teach: The Mind in Correspondence. : By M. Robert Gardner. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. 1994. Pp. 163.

Review by:
James T. McLaughlin

M. Robert Gardner has followed his earlier book Self Inquiry—an enquiry into trying to be an analyst—with an analytic scanning of the broader dilemma of how to try to be a teacher to someone.

This slim work deserves to be read by all of us who, as parent, friend, lover, companion, and especially teacher, have been moved by the divine curse to teach something to someone, and then have had to face the consequences. Much of what he has to say, in ways both witty and profound, goes to the heart of our enduring analytic dilemma over the tension between exploring the unknown and providing enlightenment.

With abiding compassion and respect for teachers and pupils, Gardner recounts his dilemmas and challenges in his own struggles towards a way and philosophy of teaching. He does so with short, freestanding essays, which in their aggregate he has chosen aptly to designate a palimpsest.

In Book I: The School of Soft Knocks, Gardner etches his personal perspective on the history of teaching. At first gently and playfully, he teases out the empty spots and contradictions in those teachers, artists and poets of past and present whom he likes to refer to as true teachers. All share the true teacher's furore to teach, lethal when present, deadening when not.

The author has funny, poignant and multiple views about everything he touches, particularly when he is lampooning the dogmatic, the self-assured and pontificating propensities in us teachers.

A few words are in order about his style. He combines the leisurely pace of an essayist with the verbal gifts of the shenachie, the story-teller, repeating words and phrases with relish and emphasis, reversing and undoing their original meaning and metaphor at every turn. These sudden jolts and twistings are deliberate and artful.

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