Here are some
of the teachers who taught me the
most. Since I teach too
nowadays, these are the people I try to emulate.
Eric Perlberg, International School
I met Eric Perlberg in grades 7-8, he seemed to me something of a
wandering sage. He was from New York, was apparently single,
a beard, and a small apartment in downtown Basel. Each
these was completelty new to me in a teacher. Perlburg also
played the guitar and was learning to draw.
wish I could say that I was respectful to the sage from Woodstock,
at that time I was overly resistant to any assertion of
authority. For example, Perlberg believed we should do
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.
a teacher Perlburg's main deal was this kind of immense respect
interest for things - especially art and history in my memory.
week he'd take us to the Kunstmuseum (Art Museum) in Basel.
go to one or two rooms and just look at the paintings really
was our science and computer science teacher at ASE 2, and more
anything else, he made us all dream of being scientists. It
hard to imagine a higher calling in his class. To be a
was something like joining an order, and for some reason
Kevin inspired an ambition that soared way beyond the classroom.
had his faults. I can remember him breaking a hockey
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
he didn't necessarily understand himself. That was
true: learning that went past his curriculum was what he
Dixon was our English and Creative Writing teacher at ASE 2.
She scared me sometimes. She scared all of us. But
than anything else she really made us write.
really believed in writing and acting as an expression of the
as unlikely as it may sound she believed that each of us students
possessed an innate capability to tap into a genius -- and that
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 serious looking, 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
did, even things that might seem normal to anyone else.
Once, for instance, we had cold chicken and beer on a beach
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
called “The Law of Cyberspace.” It looked weird.
course description said, this is not a course about computers;
not about intellectual property; this is about
What on earth is that, I wondered? The professor was an
visitor from the University of Chicago – no one had heard of him
strode into class with his black jeans and small glasses and
soon I knew my life would never be the same. What a teacher
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
He had dedicated his life to understanding and challenging
strongest thing of all: what is taken for granted.
class changed my life, and no surprise, and Larry was certainly my
Posner taught me mostly how to write and how to think.
realise that, before I met him I had only the vaguest inkling of
each of these processes worked.
Posner is famous as a thinker, for me his aesthetics of writing
much more influential. Posner cares about words.
perhaps that's why the one think
Dick really did best was listen. He listened to what you had
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
by telling me when I was assuming to much; when I wasn't getting
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.