Every now and then, I’ve been compelled to articulate my personal philosophy for others, usually in the context of teaching, mentoring, or building artifacts for my son. It’s a handy exercise and is always privately weird to see how I’ve changed or stayed the same since the last time.
As I’ve embarked on Neck-Deep Development with the hope that it’ll help find me employment with compatible people, I wanted to try to express the things most important to me in the most authentic language I can manage; this is ultimately for you, the reader, as well as for me, the fallible but corrigible living document.
Why I Teach
When I was younger, my answer to this was more pure and ideological: I hate ignorance and cruelty and needless suffering, and it seemed like teaching was a way to fix those things without recourse to violence. If I was forced to explore why I felt that way beyond irritation at general “unfairness” or a fear that I might ultimately become the victim of those things if I didn’t work to oppose them, I had to come to terms with my fear and mistrust of people in groups, and to build a genuine respect, rather than a wary vigilance, for other humans. Teachers like Jason Price, Warnie Richardson, and John Portelli were instrumental.
Eventually, I figured out that shared, useful knowledge makes it a lot easier to live peacefully in community and trained critical faculties make it a lot easier to develop, test, discard, and update knowledge independently and with others; that was a vision of democratic society I wanted to contribute to and live inside. As I’ve aged and learned more, I appreciate better how important the subjectivity of “truth” is in society and how inescapable the plurality of “truth” is in my own psyche1 — a vision of education and collaborative knowledge-building can’t be so rigid as I’d first imagined without risking authoritarianism and tribalism. Or at least, I can’t see how it could be.
What remains true for me is that our shared humanity emerges from shared knowledge-building, that felt and considered belief in our shared humanity is the only force that can sustain community, and that community is the only thing that can, at last, sustain us. When I work with students to help them build an understanding of a concept, to learn and practice a skill, or to experience empowerment through the successful application of their creativity and ambition, that sense of shared humanity, of operation within and in contribution to society, is the background and leitmotif of everything I do. When I teach well.
Why I Code
My god, it’s fun. I came to serious, intentional programming-as-craft relatively recently as a bootcamp student in 2018, so while I’ve been formally (if rapidly) trained in some of the practicalities of programming, my appreciation of craft — computer science, algorithms, aesthetics — has developed on the job through generous mentorship, independent reading, and play. What drives me, though, is often the proximal satisfaction of transmuting a solved problem into a tool that then expands my creative horizons. Programming can be at once a meditation on the topography of personal intellectual possibility and its own vehicle to explore and develop that landscape. How sweet it is that I can do so by solving puzzles and rendering cathedrals.2
Why I Work
I have a tiny son who needs to live in this world. When I can, I teach and code for the money that will help make his life comfortable and rich, but I can’t avoid seeing how easily my professions poison that world. Teaching without ethos, humility, or kindness, is pedagoguery, inculcation, and vanity; building tools for others to use — libraries, platforms, philosophies — without circumspection or custodianship, and with greed, mortgages lasting harmony and social sustainability for short-term gain. I need to know that what I do and for whom I work leaves my son’s world — not just his house — a better place.
That’s the best of me right now.