Author of Shades of Learning
Dr. James Weaver was born and brought up in Manhattan. He earned his postgraduate degrees at Columbia, and New York University. He taught for forty years in a private women’s college teaching social and political sciences, using a student centered learning approach based on Rollo May’s Freedom to Learn philosophy; a process focused on turning self-acquired information turned into knowledge.
Where do you like to vacation?
I enjoy the New England coast line and the Atlantic Ocean. I own a house in Maine on the Coast where I find relaxation and inspiration.
What is your most outstanding childhood memory?
Probably having no father; he died when I was two. I had two mothers – a mother and a nanny – and I remember being sent away to boarding schools from age eleven on. In effect, all unhappy memories.
In your opinion, what is the most overrated virtue? Why?
Always telling the truth, and the expectation to be the all-American boy.
What is the one thing other people always seem to get wrong about you?
That they see me as a “troublemaker” with a negative attitude. I only want to expose untruths and misleading comments made by people.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
Relative ongoing peace and security for all. This means mini-conflicts will always exist, but no total global annihilations. To be strictly anti-war is too idealistic and impossible to guarantee; so pacifists are purists – a world of purists – would likely prevent any reconciliations, negotiations, or compromises for peace.
What pet peeve do you have about other people?
I dislike dealing with dishonest individuals who live by some ideology as ‘true believers’ in a cause that directs their lives, yet disallows compromises and reconciliations in viewpoints and behavior. I seek out ‘thinking people’ who are open to discussions and possible changes, and are honest about their motivations and intentions.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie?
A lie is OK if it stops harm to someone, especially a child or a handicapped person, and it is also OK if it well serves your own self-interests without doing harm to others.
Writing is hard work, do you have a favorite place to recharge?
I recharge the writing process by dropping it for a while. I go for a walk, watch TV, read a book, take a nap, or meet with someone.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
I find writing a description of something can be difficult; the accurate use of the best words. I often pick up with the last writing done, maybe rewrite it, and add just a new paragraph or more right then and there. Using a thesaurus has been helpful with new and different words and connotations to use.
Did your years as a teacher help you write this book?
As my novel is about a college professor, my past years of college teaching provided much data and experiences to refer to in the story. Having information to impart about the undergraduate teaching profession was helpful.
Are the characters based on people you know?
Many characters mentioned in the novel are a derivative of someone I knew in the undergraduate world, but I also had delight in simply fantasizing about characters who were unknown to me in real life.
Shades of Learning is an interesting title, does it hold particular significance?
The title has many meanings, but probably most important is that it declares that ways and means of learning are not just one approach, that they are a mixed consolidation of many approaches, including different items to be learned, and most importantly, that learning must come from the individual’s own directed accumulation of information, distilled by that person into knowledge. In other words, knowledge isn’t really taught by the professor, information is doled out. A teacher can impart the knowledge of other thinkers, but the student’s knowledge is only acquired by the student. So, Shades of Learning refers to the content, and variety of methods of learning, and to the layers of subjects to be learned – academic or otherwise.
What is the genre if this book, and the target audience?
This is a semi-romantic novel about student-teacher relationships in a women’s college. The main character is immature even as a professor, and this results in many passionate relationships with students as he seeks to impart knowledge to his students, and at the same time, develop personal relationships with them. The audience for this novel are undergraduate and graduate students, professors and other educators, and of course, alumni of higher education schools. Any person who attended college would relate to the layers and tangles of events in this book.
Do you have another book planned?
I am working on political conspiracy novel set in Washington DC which involves the “disability and removal” of the President by his Vice-President, who then becomes the acting President under the 1967 25th amendment to the Constitution. It seems this amendment may inadvertently be a legal precedence to enact a regime change in the White House – that is if the Vice -President conspires to declare the president disabled, and remove him from office.
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A young and wealthy, but underdeveloped man, Tyler Holmes is appointed as a professor at a women’s college outside of Boston. His lack of development can be traced back to his unsettled and disoriented childhood and teenage years when his parents constantly undermined his judgment and behavior. Through his new teaching position, however, he will eventually accrue more knowledge, and gain some self-confidence and self esteem. Twenty years of teaching makes him a master teacher; he stresses individual freedom to learn and shapes students as thinkers, not believers. He becomes a crusading professor on a mission with his students to discover what true learning involves, and this leads to intimate close relations with several students, two marriages, one abortion, and two children. He earns a reputation at the college maverick as a “trouble making” and dedicated teacher who often helps below-average students to attain new skills and superior ranking through extra attention. Tyler’s main goal is to expose students to the many dimensions, or shades, of learning, and to enable them to better understand the shades of gray in human behavior, accomplishments, and motivations.