The syllabus does not convey a clear picture of what is going on in the class because the substance of the course is in the character of the discussion, and, more particularly, what is going on in the heads of EACH student. With Clausewitz, there is not a unified learning process in a class--every student must process the material in his or her own way, although the endpoint (the strategic equivalent of salvation or something like a state of grace) is more or less the same.

When I teach my class, I do so not as a professor who will convey information or clarify concepts but as a stand-in for Clausewitz.  On War then becomes 'my' book, and I then become the absolute arbiter of intent.  I assume an author's conceit: The text is as clear as any text can possibly me--the problem of comprehension is a matter of shortcomings in the intellectual apparatus of the reader.  On War provides instruction on how to rectify those shortcomings so that the text can communicate genuine meaning.  As the instructor, I spend most of my time forcing students back on themselves, to learn how to identify those gaps in their cognitive apparatus that preclude effectively engaging On War.  I am satisfied if, by the end of the semester, they are brought to a viable starting point for reading Clausewitz.  A few actually achieve more than this.

Jon Sumida

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