Sunday, August 23, 2015

Quoting Oliver Sacks

I'm nearly finished with the Oliver Sacks autobiography On the Move.  With an interest in writing and the brain, Sacks has been a great companion over the years.  In the book he describes both his medical life and his life of writing.

I will miss him when he's gone.  His life is nearing its end, as he has publicly announced and chronicled in the New York Times Op-Ed section here, here, and most recently here.

He reveals all in this life story which was written prior to learning he has terminal cancer.  Very much fun to read.

Of course, ever alert to teaching and learning I dog-eared the following page where he describes working with neurology interns:
At one point, the neurology department asked me to test and grade all my students. I submitted the requisite form, giving all of them A's. My chairman was indignant. "How can they all be A's?" he asked. "Is this some kind of a joke?"
I said, no it wasn't a joke, but that the more I got to know each student, the more he seemed to me distinctive.  My A was not some attempt to affirm a spurious equality but rather an acknowledgment of the uniqueness of each student.  I felt that a student could not be reduced to a number or a test, any more that a patient could.  How could I judge students without seeing them in a variety of situations, how they stood on the ungradable qualities of empathy, concern, responsibility, judgment?
Eventually, I was no longer asked to grade my students. 

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