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Motive and Opportunity

Getting in front of a captive audience is a powerful thing. Routinely getting in front of a captive audience made up of ever-shifting groups of people from a single population is an even more powerful thing. Suddenly you have the power to distribute knowledge pretty widely through a population. Suddenly lots of people feel they have a stake in what you do while you’re up there, particularly if you are conveying stuff that’s related to whatever those other people want to convey, because they also have lots of things they’d like to have distributed widely through the population. Suddenly you’re a major gatekeeper. It’s a golden opportunity.

But having the opportunity, and even agreeing that the population could benefit from knowing a lot more about what you and everyone else knows, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have good enough motives for including all that information in any given session. I think of my classes, which I try to keep to 3 learning goals, ruthlessly cutting all kinds of useful and interesting stuff. I think of our first year seminars, which have to push back against requests to please make sure “all first year students learn x” from every quarter.

Motives are important things and not all motives are created equal. Opportunities may be fickle, but strong motives make or break the case.

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