David Carr’s Teaching Manifesto

The late David Carr was many things, not least among them a gifted teacher. Only recently I read the syllabus for his Boston U. course, “Press Play.” I wish I had been smart enough to include in my course outline (Advanced Feature Writing, at Ryerson) what he wrote under what he called “Personal Standards.” It’s dead-on, at least for the strange craft of teaching professional nonfiction writing.

NYTCREDIT: Earl Wilson/The New York Times 5-15-2012

* Don’t raise your hand in class. This isn’t Montessori, I expect people to speak up when they like, but don’t speak over anyone. Respect the opinions of others.

* This is an intense, once-a-week immersion on the waterfront of modern media-making. If you don’t show up for class, you will flounder. If you show up late or unprepared, you will stick out in unpleasant ways. If you aren’t putting effort into your work, I will suggest that you might be more comfortable elsewhere.

* If you text or email during class, I will ignore you as you ignore me. It won’t go well.
* I expect you to behave as an adult and will treat you like one. I don’t want to parent you—I want to teach you.

* Excuses: Don’t make them — they won’t work. Stories are supposed to be on the page, and while a spoken-word performance might explain everything, it will excuse nothing. The assignments for each week are due by start of class without exception unless specific arrangements have made based on an exceptional circumstance.

* If you truly have a personal or family emergency, your welfare comes first. But nothing short of that will have any traction with me.

* If you are having trouble understanding expectations or assignments or instruction, please speak up. I care a lot about not leaving anybody behind.