Discipline, Passion, and Choice: An Exploration of Teaching Philosophy and the Hope that Such a Philosophy can Motivate Students

Michael Jeter
English, Bishop State University

The presentation revolves around the personal motto of an English Composition Instructor – Literacy, Music, and Democracy – and explores the components of that motto as resultants from general concepts that educators can use to motivate students. The discipline of English Composition encompasses many things, but at its core lies the quest for literacy. Literacy, like numeracy, historical knowledge and competence and excellence in any discipline, requires a precise attention to detail in a careful study of the given area. But, as Robert Fripp stated in an aphorism on the King Crimson album Discipline, “Discipline is never an end in itself; only a means to an end,” and students' end amounts to seeking agency, the perception that they control their lives. Music, a discipline separate from English represents the instructors passion, and through a discussion of the instructor's passion for music as a player and listener,  the presentation examines the effects of both interdisciplinary study and the sharing of personal interests and reflection to take teachers and students beyond work to joy and with joy to purpose: why do we do these things we do? The quests for agency and joy both stem from and lead to choice, which democracy typifies.  The presentation seeks to suggest that an instructor can foster a growth of personal democracy – the making of personal choices within collective environments – by demonstrating that no discipline should limit itself to itself, but has implications for all of a student's life.