Part II


He who has a hundred miles to walk should reckon ninety as half the journey.

—-Japanese proverb


As a law student, I was a teaching fellow in a class taught by Alan Dershowitz, Stephen J. Gould, and Robert Nozick called “Thinking about Thinking” to undergrads at Harvard College. It was a highly conceptual, cross-disciplinary class that combined science, philosophy, and law to confront the big issues of the time: drugs, abortion, euthanasia, gun rights, and others. At the end of the semester, I began to notice an interesting trend in my grading patterns, something surprising about who earned Bs and B+s, who earned the As, and, most interestingly, who earned the Cs. I discussed it with my fellow teaching associates, and in the process confronted an interesting paradox about how we learn and the journey to deep knowledge.

The B/B+ students in my class demonstrated good command of the material. They started their intellectual journeys at the beginning of the semester and climbed a hill of understanding. They did all the reading, they were industrious, and they were able to lay it out very clearly on the final exam. They climbed diligently, as one does on all journeys, ever upward toward knowledge. At the end of the semester they displayed a basic understanding and basic knowledge, made no major mistakes, showed little confusion, and repeated it all back clearly. Basic knowledge deserved a grade of B.

Those who received A grades ...

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