Parker Palmer on humility and chutzpah

/ 2 October 2010

One of my very favorite scholars and writers has a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed reflecting on a defining idea for the next century. In Parker Palmer’s case, that’s democracy and its requirement that we practice both humility and chutzpah:

"Humility" means knowing I must listen to others—especially to those who seem most alien to me—in order to understand and feel at home in a diverse world. If our students are to develop this habit, we must restore our commitment to the liberal arts. We must teach them to seek out opposing viewpoints; to appreciate ambiguity; to explore contradictions without fear; to appreciate the truth of paradox; to expand their sense of who they mean when they use the word "we."

"Chutzpah" means knowing my own voice and having the courage to speak it—with respect for others and in confidence that my voice counts. If our students are to develop that habit, we must teach in ways that make them participants in, not spectators of the educational process. We must engage them in learning communities where facts, ideas, and values are sifted and winnowed. We must immerse them in off-campus experiences where civic action is tied to reflection.</blockquote>