Sunday, July 16, 2006

Unsung Heroes: Who Influenced You and Might Not Know It?

Had lunch with an old friend last week. Jerry and I go back a lot of years and we were talking about what surprised us about work. Both of us have worked on the collegiate level, I as a teacher and Jerry as a volleyball coach, and we were both amazed at kids who come back years later and tell you how much of an influence you were. You go to work and you have a good time, you do your job, some days you are on your game, while other days you just phone it in. Yet, through it all, you don't realize how much what you do, day to day, effects others. It's humbling, exciting, strange, and sometimes frightening to think that your goofing off in the classroom is having real effects.

It is never clearer than with science students. Whenever I have students come to me and tell me they want to major in the sciences, I ask, "Who was the really cool teacher who got you hooked on physics/chem/bio/math?" and invariably there is one.

For me, I believe that my lot as a philosopher of science was set by five people: my father who watched endless episodes of NOVA with me; my mother who would always say, "Because Y is a crooked letter" making me crazy enough that I was going to find out why, damn it; my high school English teacher Bill Endres who encouraged me to read and think in new ways; and my undergrad advisors Barbara Horan and Roye Templeton who showed me the beauty and power of philosophy.

Who changed your path but might not know it?