Friday, September 25, 2009

Generational Shift

One of the most interesting things about one of my classes: My 18 year-olds are interested in so-called "liberal" agendas.

Yes, you read that right.

Eighteen year old college freshman have been suggesting writing projects that deal with poverty, health care, homelessness, education, ending war, educating people on climate change, gay marriage, etc. One student from a *very* conservative, rural area in my state is actually *reading* health care legislation... for himself. No spin. And weekly is talking to me about the disconnect he sees between the media coverage of this process and the documents he is reading. Nothing says critical thinking like self-education...

One of the things on which I pride myself most as a teacher is that my classes are about the students. I don't direct their thinking since I teach rhetoric and argument (and for all the whackadoos who have no idea that rhetoric, in a classical sense, is not empty mind control paired with bad manners: go read some Aristotle and then come talk to me about something in which I hold a Ph.D.).

We have had non-partisan class discussions on abortion and separation of church and state (these are *their* topics, not mine) and talk about these issues from a rhetorical perspective, without using pathos or theology as bases for argument.

I have had three students in the class who have told me that teachers in the past always gave them poor marks for their beliefs.

I tell them: "This isn't church. I teach students. Not faith."

I promised them pumpkin bars on the first chilly fall day. I have had one absence in five weeks; I teach at 3:30 and on Fridays when all of the fraternities and sororities are having cookouts, playing frisbee, and gearing up for tail-gating, my students are in my class. They deserve to be appreciated for all of their open-mindedness and respect they have shown each other... the Joe Wilsons and Glenn Becks and Rush Limpballs of the world could learn a thing or two from these amazing young people. They care about each other despite their differences. They care about making a difference... even tho' the naysayers call them apathetic and self-centered.

Boy, those folks couldn't be more wrong.

I get paid to watch these young people start to learn to think for themselves. Paid! Even better, I get to read their thoughts on paper, talk to them, and see how they see the world through unjaded eyes. They are so hopeful, so determined, so staid in their trust that things will work out. More importantly, they have shown me that they know *they* have something to do with it. It's not some external problem, in some BFE place, for some abstract group of strangers. The world is our world to them. It belongs to us all.

Indeed it does. Indeed it does.

Happy Friday everyone.

5 comments:

Riot Kitty September 25, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

That is just awesome! Wish I could sit in on one of your classes.

Diana September 25, 2009 at 8:26 PM  

I am so glad to hear this. Not just about the students, but that there are still teachers who teach.

You have an excellent attitude and approach to your young charges. I hope it lasts you a lifetime.

Aliceson September 25, 2009 at 8:56 PM  

What a breath of fresh air this must be for you!

So glad school is going well!

msprimadonna67 September 30, 2009 at 6:21 PM  

These glimmers of light, these beginnings of self-discovery and awareness....these are the reasons we teachers teach.

skyewriter September 30, 2009 at 7:17 PM  

msprima: I cannot comment on your blog! Blogger is holding a grudge against me for my foul language and political rants :). I loved your post about texting... I tried to comment as anonymous, but could not... (I wrote about how I would from now on say to students:
"In my day [shaky Hepburn voice] we had to drag out a pen and actual paper to write to our friends in class. We had to fold the paper a certain way and choose a careful passing route for our clandestine in-class correspondence..."

Thanks for the comments, all! I am sorry I have been so remiss in visiting your blogs.

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