In two of my classes yesterday, students during a Socratic seminar brought brought up their understanding of Karma. They were thinking back on his violence toward his wives and children, and stating that perhaps Okonkwo somehow had it coming in Things Fall Apart. And while I don’t share their opinion, I understand its origins and, of course, they are welcome to it. At the end of the seminar, when I allow myself to speak, I told them that, while I wouldn’t approach Karma from a religious perspective in the short time we had remaining, I would simply tell them that they are fools if they believe that the universe will simply apply the necessary justice to right the wrongs in our world. We, I told them, have to be the appliers of justice. The world can be fixed, but not by itself — we have to be the ones to fix it. This seemed to resonate with them.
It was at lunch, later, that I was brought up to speed on what happened at the school board meeting last night. In a nutshell, they told me, teachers will lose half of their plan time, be expected to substitute for one another sans any compensation, have our pay scale frozen, and have the cost of our insurance — which my family is on — increased by an average of 250%. Apparently it was so bad that our notoriously ineffective union leaders walked out of the negotiations, a move which I applaud. I was so angry (and loud) at lunch that I gave myself a headache, and was late returning to class because I was trying to find Tylenol.
This all has me thinking. The world can be fixed, but not by itself. If I really believe the things I say in class, then perhaps it’s time for me to begin working on a solution to the problems facing my profession. After all, as I often tell my graduate students, the whole world falls from the shoulders of Atlas and shatters into a million pieces the moment we teachers stop doing our jobs, and right now, teachers are being driven from our profession en masse while the best and brightest young people observe this occurrence and decide to go into other fields.
Digging more deeply into this topic would take a lot of time — tie I intend to devote to it in the near future. For now, however, suffice it to say that I’m considering a change of course, and that my daughter reminded me last night that maybe that is what I needed to do. At around twenty months, Zooey is the most independent and stubborn little person I’ve ever met, and I love her for it. She wants to do everything herself, from reading to walking up and down the stairs. Last night, it was her bib. She wanted to put it on herself. And while she was clearly hungry, and while we told her no food until she had her bib on, she kept trying and trying and wouldn’t accept any help until eventually I think Sonja sort of snuck a hand over and helped apply the snaps at the back. I caught a picture of Zooey’s herculean struggle.
At dinner, we shared wine and a really nice meal of chicken and green beans Sonja had made. The wine was a really cool one, a Roussanne made by a Cali producer called Zinke, vintage 2015. It had a gorgeous golden hue, a rather tame bouquet, and tasted as if someone had slathered rich butter all over a mild green apple. It was a really terrific wine, and paired well with the meal as well as Sonja and my conversation about what’s going on in education and what sort of actions that might inspire me to take.
The philosopher Zach de la Roca advises that our anger is a gift, and this I often tell my students. If something makes you angry, use it. That anger can consume you, or it can become fuel and give you the energy to take meaningful action to help advocate for the changes the world so desperately needs. Right now, I am terribly angry, and not because I’m having my own working conditions threatened, but rather because I know that if we continue down this shortsighted path, soon there will be no qualified teachers left, that the halls of the teachers colleges will be empty, and that the entire world will suffer grievously as a result. We all reap the benefits of living in an educated, literate society, and teachers are where every other profession in the world originate from. We are the glue that binds society, and it makes me furious to think that there are people in positions of power who value our society, and our democracy, so little that they would threaten its very existence in an attempt to save money. I’ll stop there for now, but expect the pause to be brief. As always, thanks for reading.
Cheers to letting our anger fuel us, and to striving to change the world,