Every last little piece of goofy shit I have lying about my home, my classroom, even my car, has some sort of story behind it. The box of cookies from a student sits upon my table, next to a goody bag (from another student), a wad of yearbook receipts, and who knows how many novels and biographies?
But I could tell you e’ery detail about these objects, about how they influence and guide me, and why I keep them around. Some stories are simply worth holding on to.
And though I’ve told my students about not worrying so much about the future, it is a difficult thing to comprehend in youthful ignorance. But rest assured: we all get there in the end.
I have students who admit they don’t see themselves going anywhere with their Life. Students who admit they are afraid of their parents when bringing up Life after high school. I have those students who fear what the summer brings. And, of course, I have students who are absolutely terrified of the future. Plato’s Cave – those binding chains of comfortable ignorance – is a difficult place to escape, Prisoner.
The future is yet to be written; it is merely a Thing.
Well, if you’ve been following the news or you find yourself a captive of the Land of Entrapment, then you’re well aware my state has gone full pants-on-head-retarded over this Coronavirus nonsense. While I will admit that precautions are certainly necessary to prevent a full-blown outbreak of the Angry Flu™, I would also counter that washing your goddamned hands and not fucking sneezing on motherfuckers is an acceptable strategy over complete public shutdown for three weeks.
But because we’re not content being 51st in education, our governor decided – after a few I-40 octogenarian yankees contracted the Angry Flu™ – that, in the interests of public safety and preventing further cases from sprouting up across the state, we’d best cancel school for three weeks. Never mind the virus only afflicts the weak and infirm (a natural process of biology); we must act – in the interests of public safety – to prevent an outbreak!
Never mind that we’re a full five hours from this non-issue virus: public safety!
Never mind that we’re one of the largest states with one of the smallest populations – a relic of the Wild West: public safety!
Never mind that a healthy, young person – like teenagers attending public school – might be miserable for a week but remain unscathed; it is more likely symptoms won’t manifest at all: public safety!
Never mind that the Public Education Department has banned public education: public safety!
Never mind that the War on Terror continues without pause, the War on Drugs continues to suckle billions from the federal teat, that accusations of governmental corruption continue in that fetid swamp of DC, that the Democrats and Republicans are tearing each other apart for yet another go at the coveted Ivory Tower, that the stock market is tanking, that the oilfield is suffering, that people have been whipped into a frenzy via media flagellants, that idiocy reigns supreme over logic and reason: public safety!
Never mind the state of fear bred by elected officials, media personalities, and your tia on Facebook: public fucking safety.
On Thursday evening last, comrades, after the news of our educational demise was announced by those pompous asses in Santa Fe, ah, how I went into a fury: three weeks. Not even the camaraderie of our staff book club and ample pints could dampen my rage. Indeed, I’m still absolutely livid with this Dolchstoss.
Three full goddamned weeks stolen from my charges; ripped, like babes from a pleading mother, by the grotesque hands of barbarians who neither understand their reason for slaughter or its long-term consequences. How – how, comrades! – can this woman in Santa Fe run on an education platform and then gut us so severely this late in the term? Et tu, Lujan?
Yes, yes, I’ve heard it: public safety. Again, certainly, precautions must be taken – that is not in dispute: it is the methodology that irks me. This knee-jerk reaction to the most miniscule of illnesses; have we forgotten how much deadlier the humble flu is than this cheap Chinese knockoff? We have ne’er banned school for three weeks because someone had a cold. You know why?
Because you can wash your goddamned hands and not fucking sneeze on motherfuckers to prevent its spread. Ah ha! Look at that – the simplest solution to the simplest of issues! Where’s my goddamned Nobel Prize for Medicine?
Yes, I understand we needn’t have an outbreak, but I must counter that the blackguards in Santa Fe went about this all wrong. They are burning down the house to kill the rat. Indeed, they have created a lie from nothing in order to do what, exactly? Prevent the spread of the Angry Flu™, a marvel that targets the weakest members of a biological pool (ya know, like literally every other virus, plague, disease, what have you)?
Consider me cold. Consider me callous. You are justified in such sentiment. But have we considered that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? Let the weak, the infirm, the elderly try their hand with this overhyped nonsense: we live in the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. The odds, like in the Hunger Games, are in their favor.
What the governor did not consider – the raison d’etre – were the thousands of students who now must suffer the loss of formal schooling for three weeks. These same students who must now watch their parents descend into media-induced barbarism as they scramble for toilet paper because some fuckwit on the television told them to. These same students who are robbed of the chance to pull New Mexico out of the educational cesspit it’s been languishing in for so many decades. These same students, comrades, who now must look agape at what their futures hold given they’ve been forced into this uncomfortable state of fear.
State of fear: that’s what this has done. The shelves at the grocery store are empty – like my classroom – because people are afraid. And people who are afraid are easy to control. The enemy isn’t at the gates, comrades, shouting their bellicosity from afar; no, they hold court in Santa Fe and Washington. And if you disagree, consider this has been hyped up past 11 right when the primaries were heating up. Nothing like a good scare to convince Americans to vote this or that because our leaders promise safety. McCarthy must be grinning in hell.
Certainly, in this 21st century of ours with all the technological know-how and what have you, we can resort to distance learning: put everything on the line and let the kids teach themselves.
Ah, fuck it all; what a dreadful idea. Without human interaction – an encouraging instructor to point out errors and praise success – robots are a poor excuse for education. If it wasn’t, well, there’d be no need for boots on the ground. And yet you cannot replicate the classroom setting on the line in full: you can try, with varying degrees of success, but it will never be the same. Having kids in the classroom is one of the greatest joys of this calling. To believe otherwise is foolish and ignorant (you can probably find a job in the governor’s retinue with those qualifications, however).
Now I will admit I am heated as evidenced by my inflammatory rhetoric (you get the allusion in the title, right?) and my desire to bite my thumb at my so-called superiors. Certainly, I am bellicose and impassioned with ire; how could I not? My calling, comrades, is to teach, and to be neutered in a single swipe of a governor’s pen; it’s maddening.
On Friday – my last full day with my charges – I launched into an epic fury, such was my rage, as I railed against this educational injustice, public safety be damned. Indeed, one of those moments you look back on and think “I might get in trouble for saying this.” And then – in the cold clarity of carefully constructed choler – I came upon the realization that I’ve been given a golden loophole: I can’t teach at school.
But I can teach where’er the fuck I want.
To that end, comrades, I must report with certain satisfaction that the inaugural Corona High’s first session went well-enough. Despite being denied a pre-promised conference room and Mother Nature seeing fit to literally rain upon our parade, we held class and continued our studies as if nothing had occurred. Indeed, it felt far more promising and enriching given the small class sizes and genuine interest of the participants. For all my rage, I did not forget my raison d’etre: my kids. For all these setbacks, those kids didn’t forget their studies.
Comrades, the reasons I take fault with this hyperbole is because it directly affects our students, and thus, by extension, our future. By robbing our kids of valuable school time so late in the semester, we are dropping our low bar even lower. Indeed, it’s no longer a pole vault but a limbo. By allowing kids to see that fear is more valued than logic or reason, we indirectly encourage them to simply go with the flow and not make waves.
But I have faith in my kids – in those kids who are refusing to bow to fear or kowtow to distant disturbances – to carry this beacon forward.
We’ll continue to have class, Corona – and Santa Fe – be damned. Education is far more important than so-called public safety, for indeed, an educated populace is a safe one. An ignorant one, well, go check out your local grocery store to see how they fare.
Class at noon tomorrow, kids. At the park. Bring the goddamned thunder.
As promised, the third installment of the What am I doing with my Soul? series courtesy of Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher-Emperor of Rome. If you’re just now joining us, well, flip back to Part I and Part II for the meat and potatoes. Otherwise:
Context – I make my English classes write and write often. This week they’re writing me three essays (over the course of three days; I’m not a sadist) over various AP materials, but last week – oh, last week! – they penned a response to the Emperor’s question posited in Book IV of his Meditations: what am I doing with my Soul? Since I use plenty of philosophical material in the classroom (to induce critical thinking), it was little wonder the Emperor would make his way to our collective desktops. But, as Sun Tzu and LTC Agor taught me, if you ask your soldiers to do something, be prepared to do it yourself.
And so, as my young charges penned responses to the Emperor, I too took to the challenge for each class period, writing in cramped, yet calm, script as I shared my thoughts with the page.
Building off of the last post, here’s the second part. Here we are attempting to answer the Emperor’s question: what am I doing with my Soul? I had all of my English classes write a response, the better able to understand themselves via self-reflection. But, like a good captain, I will bivouac in the same muck as my troops.
I could give you a veritable litany of excuses, but I fear none shall suffice for my failure to write. I just – haven’t felt it, ya know? And I ain’t about forcing shit down peoples’ throats if it ain’t something worth writing. Damndest thing, I know, but my Bukowski has made his impact upon me.
On the obverse, however, I did write a slew of things in class on Friday. If the Army taught me anything it was to suffer alongside your troops.
Context: I make the little fuckers write all the time. Writing is expression; it allows one to understand themselves. I’ve been harassing my charges for months now on their AP writing, and over the course of the previous week, I had them study philosophy and ethics (gentlemen, you’ll thank me after you successfully use pathos, logos, and ethos on that date). I’ve been reading Meditations by the Emperor – the Marcus Aurelius – and I was gobsmacked by a question he posited:
What am I doing with my Soul?
I lay awake in bed mulling the question over before I decided that this – this – would be the essay topic for the week. I had my charges write a response to the Emperor’s question whilst I penned my own, one for each period, before transcribing them below.
For my charges who wished for a Free Write, well, here ya go:
I can’t force myself to write – it always seems lacking in humanity. That fresh-with-blood, slick-as-a-wound kind of humanity that draws a reader in by the throat, holds them in a death grapple while simultaneously banging their head against the wall and forcing them to sing.
Fuck; now that’s an image.
But the writing process, comrades, is one I’ve yet to master. Oh, sure, all the little old ladies at church think my writing is “beautiful” and “poetic” but I think they’re overlooking the amount of fuck’s and dick jokes I make when penning absurdity. It’s shit; it always is.
My digits are now tipped in these rather strange talons most people call fingernails as mine have been bitten off for some 30 odd years e’er since tooth discovered keratin. I find it strange – it makes typing far more haphazardous – and I’ve lost the oral fixation Freud hurr-hurred on about for psychopaths and Oedipusians.
After walking Camino for a third time, it seems the habit was left behind like a stone of ill-intentions at the Cruz de Ferro.
And after walking Camino, I find myself once more having that “Come to Jesus” moment about what is reality and where am I going with it.
Fuck me, I love Lana del Rey. A certain Soul – one I pushed away once upon a time – introduced me to this mistress of music and poetry. Despite my antics for metal and hard rock shenanigans (with a healthy dose of folk thrown in for good measure), I find this woman to speak to me. Her words – fuck – her words are brilliant, that brilliance that can only stem from the tortured agony of introspective self-awareness. Her escape from the Cave was wrought with dangerous Shadows and feckless Chains, yet her words proved her liberation. Perhaps that’s why, comrades, this pop star speaks to my Soul. That tattered Soul of gray, frayed at the edges, worn to the interior, yet pulsating with a light that refuses to yield. Cover it with a bushel basket and you place it atop a hill: it cannot be hidden.