From the Last Day of Class

The last day of class was always special to Freda. This is a letter that Freda prepared for the last day of one of her classes. She kept a number of copies of the letter in her files.

April 27, 1981

Dear class,

I'm really sorry to miss this last class - and a chance to say goodbye to you. A close friends needs me in Washington to testify at a custody proceeding (her husband is sueing to take the child). A sudden hearing was called for 3 p.m. today - and I was informed about it over the weekend. And I am the necessary witness.

I am sorry not to have a chance to say goodbye to you. I think that too many teachers and students act as if they are meaningless to each other. I think we have impact on each other - and need to say hellos and goodbyes. I look forward to seeing many of you again, but we will never again be in this class together - and it is worth our reflecting together about the pleasures and pains of separation.

I would have also repeated some highlights of the first few lectures for you - to show you how much you now know that you didn't know just a few months ago. I would remind you that I quoted Sylvia Ashton-Warner:

For it is not so much the content of what one says as the way in which one says it. However important the thing you say, what's the good of it if not heard or, being heard, not felt? To feel as well as hear what someone says requires whole attention.

I talked about wolves, sharks, dinosaurs, the rings of Saturn, plate techtonics and zeitgeist. I read you a Haiku:

Reluctantly
The willow leaves the boat
Far behind.

I told you 1) that behavior is complicated, 2) that our knowledge is limited by our past knowledge and our present zeitgeist, 3) that the long range results of any study may be different from the short range ones, and 4) that what's true for most people may not be true for all (the issue of individual differences).

I mentioned babies vision, language development, phi phenomena, and I clapped hands to represent . . .

Mostly I was trying to involve you actively in seeing youself as a learner. What do you remember from a class?

I wish you continued learning - and continued questioning of easy answers and easy questions. I do not believe that people have to be creatures determined by their social environment. Individuals must learn to trust their own abilities to perceive, to interpret, to learn - and to evaluate independently of peers and superiors. I believe education - and a chance to really use your good human minds and hearts - will free us from being Eichmanns.

In a democracy, each individual must share in deciding the direction society shall move - each person's vote is equal to each others - and we must add our own independent evaluations and actions. It is up to you to decide when to conform and when to defy authority - when to trust and when to be skeptical - and I believe you will make better choices with the knowledge that you - as an active organism - can seek and find when you remember your humanity.

Good luck - If I can help in the future, I'd be delighted to.

Freda Rebelsky


Samuel A. Rebelsky
rebelsky@grinnell.edu