This was one of the most interesting courses - and the most delightful - I have taught in my years of teaching and working as a foreign correspondent. The reasons are plain: the class is small, cosmopolitan, interested in the same thing - journalism - and friendly. Each of the half dozen members has had some experience as a journalist. They are three Chinese, one Israeli, one Taiwanese, and one American. At least one student is a member of the Communist Party, one works for an official news agency, one is married to a foreign diplomat, and another is a veteran of the army for which she served as a press spokesman.
What I had planned - discussing what it is like to be a Western journalist in China and a Chinese journalist working there too - has turned into something wider and more fascinating: since each member of the class writes a weekly news story or news analysis which all members read, we at once have six different approaches to news-writing. Along the way we have discussed privacy issues; ethics; official lying and distorting (here the details, safely behind a closed classroom door, have been explicit); style; approach; and shared experience.
The best kind of class is one where there is much for the teacher to learn. It was the twice - weekly prospect of this learning for me, in close and friendly interchange with my students, which made me trot eagerly down the hills of North Berkeley to my classroom. Nor has the classroom been the whole experience. Closely reading the students' pieces, listening to their voices and preserving the best of it, has been part of the conversation.
One of the pleasures of the class was planning their reporting trips to China, Hong Kong, India, and New York, reading the stories they pitched to me, and then to the dean for their budgets, reading their letters from the field, finally working on their stories, each of them worthy of publication.
I have sent them copies of what I have written during our time together, and more than once have been told that some of my most closely held beliefs are either obsessions or distortions.
I will have taught this course only once. Perhaps this is just as well. Such twice - weekly happiness for a teacher occurs rarely.