I just left my last class at Tidewater Community College. I started here twenty-nine years ago as an adjunct instructor and moved to full-time professor just a couple years later. I taught, traveled, raised a family, built a home, had lunch, and now I just left my last class. It was advanced creative writing and they all read some of their favorite work they produced this semester. I read as well and so did my former office mate Tom Williams. It was fun.
We had pizza and wings and chips and drinks, and we talked about what’s next, now that they’re transferring to four-year schools. Some are going to Virginia Tech, some to Old Dominion, some to William and Mary, and a few aren’t really going anywhere—working full-time and raising children. One is an elementary school teacher here for recertification, and she has her seven-year-olds writing poetry, which she plans to send to them in a few years. We all talked about our favorite pizza toppings.
Afterwards, my son and I sat and had drinks at a boardwalk café. The moon was red just above the horizon, not full, and the light it reflected cast across some vessels on their way north, or south, or waiting to enter the port of Hampton Roads sometime in the next day or two. Venus was setting to the west and Jupiter was just about to appear, not quite visible for its proximity to the moon. I had a rum drink because it felt like the thing to do after all this time. Besides, Michael bought it for me.
It’s hard to imagine the horrors taking place in Syria, Afghanistan, and other places when the water is calm like this and the boardwalk lights illuminate lovers walking quietly, the occasional call of a gull just beyond the shadows on the reach. I tend to look out and think more about the peace that awaits in northern Spain than the hunger that haunts the people in South Sudan, but only because I’ve been so lucky. I mean, sometimes when the Atlantic and I are just hanging out peacefully like this, I can’t help but understand I wasn’t raised in Mosul; I wasn’t born in Beirut.
Humanity is a crazy race, building irrigation systems to help grow food to feed millions while building methods to annihilate those poor souls in seconds. Maybe the greatest irony of education is the stretches of intelligence, research, and application it takes for the human mind to conceive, create, and execute weapons which can evaporate entire cities. The mechanics to build the means by which to destroy someone else wouldn’t cross the mind of an uneducated person. Only educated people can accomplish such a holocaust.
It feels tragically like no one wants to save the world anymore.
There needs to be a new requisite in schools everywhere: Humanity 101. The course could cover the benefits of helping other people, the rewards of sharing not just gains but losses as well. There could be a lesson on compassion and one on being a good Samaritan. A sociologist might talk in one session about how what happens in one section of the globe really does have an impact on the rest, and a psychologist can show the class how to balance the beauty of nature with the evil things people say and do.
A theologian could explain why there are, or at least needs to be, some absolute morals. That person might explain why the belief in postmortem consequences is what can keep evil in check, keep the horrible potential of humanity at bay. Without preaching about salvation in heaven, he or she can certainly drop in a few lectures about earthly responsibility to each other, and if the fear of God is necessary to get it done, so be it; not unlike threatening toddlers who act up with the possibility of Santa skipping their house as a result. The potential of a little supernatural backlash is just what this world could use right now.
Honestly, it seems like no one wants to save the world anymore. I fear for the absence in education of something other than the notion of “career.”
More connections with other people can be made by sharing a meal than college administrators give credit for. Looking back now, I should have taught all my classes over dinner, sitting around a huge table passing the potatoes while talking about social-responsibility and expert sources.
We might solve more problems by knowing what our neighbors like on their pizza than understanding the treaties that keep us apart.
In any case, it’s time for another round.