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My colleague Selfridge, in one of our many conversations about poetry, recited these lines by Robert Frost:

My object in living is unite
My avocation and my vocation,
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only when love and need are one
And work is play for mortal stakes
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven’s and the Future’s sakes.

My primary focus: detailed case studies of my children’s learning.

As a young man, I stumbled upon a book I still find inspiring. It began this way:

I am a human being, whatever that may be. I speak for all of us who move and think and feel and whom time consumes. I speak as an individual unique in a universe beyond my understanding, and I speak for man. I am hemmed in by limitations of sense and mind and body, of place and time and circumstance, some of which I know but most of which I do not. I am like a man journeying through a forest, aware of occasional glints of light overhead, with recollections of the long trail I have already traveled, and conscious of wider spaces ahead. I want to see more clearly where I have been and where I am going, and above all, I want to know why I am where I am and why I am traveling at all….
N. J. Berrill

Man’s Emerging Mind

Berrill characterizes his book as one man’s contribution to developing a scientific concept of man. This work is my imperfect contribution to that same end: it is in a tradition, begun by Norbert Wiener and Warren McCulloch, which rises directly to Berrill’s challenge. The central goal of that tradition is the explanation of intelligence, both artificial and natural.

“…a stick thrust in the water felt straight and looked bent to a Greek. The sun moved for the inquisition, the earth for Galileo. Light is a wave for Schroedinger and a particle for Heisenberg. But even the last have had their Dirac. The seeming contradictions vanish in the grace of greater knowledge. We have learned that the answer depends upon how we ask the question. And we have learned to ask the question so as to get answers of a kind we can use…”
Warren S. McCulloch
Through the Den of the Metaphysician

What I do began with the questions of Berrill and proceeds with the vision and hope of McCulloch. My scientific work is dedicated…

with gratitude and affection to
the family, friends, and colleagues
from whom I have learned so much
with the hope that others
may learn a little from me

And yet, there remain a few words more about education. From my near family, my mother’s brother and my cousins, educators all, I have seen constant witness of the worth of education as a calling. For me, the child of minimally educated parents and illiterate grandparents, American public education has been the high road of opportunity through which I have come to study, to know, and to work with some of the most brilliant people of our era. My work in education has been through gratitude to the society and people who have opened to my interest and access the life and work of the mind.

Robert W. Lawler

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