Very Good Paragraphs—but Is My Blog Getting Kinda Blowhardy?

“‘Getting kind of’?” (This is you talking back at me.) “Try ‘always has been’.”

I know, right? It’s like an advertisement for my own dull self-importance. I should spend more time dishing, or endorsing products and various artworks. But I consume artworks years after the Internet does, because I am cheap. Did you see Source Code? It was kind of great. Also: D’Agata’s About a Mountain.

At any rate, this is from September’s Harper’s, specifically Garret Keizer’s cover story on teaching (all of which is incredibly great, to the point that I may actually sit down and dorkily write Mr. Keizer a letter telling him so):

One of the more remarkable and, I think, telling things about the teaching trade is the number of people who need to believe that you love it. Ever since leaving the classroom in the mid-Nineties and throughout the past year I found people asking if I missed teaching or had plans to take it up again. They didn’t want to know; they wanted to hear me say yes. Some didn’t bother to ask. “I know the pay is not the greatest, but you’re doing what you love”—a sentiment that puts me in mind of the trope of the happy slave. In fact, our word pedagogue derives from a Greek word for a type of slave who led children to school [true! ugh!]. Jim is Huck Finn’s teacher not only in spirit but in accordance with an ancient tradition. This is not to suggest that contemporary teachers are slaves or that I was ever treated like one, only that I am inclined to distrust people who expect me to work for love, or who need a sentimental mythology to gloss over the impossibilities of my job and the daily injustices it lays bare.

It occurs to me that Robin Williams has played this mythic teacher twice. But then again he had to star in both Jack and Bicentennial Man so I guess that’s penance enough.

(Insider for teachers only [everyone else click away], a sentence from elsewhere in the piece: “I did on one or two occasions tell my students they were living in a society that values people of their age, region, and class primarily as cannon fodder, cheap labor, and gullible consumers, and that education could give them some of the weapons necessary to fight back.” Believing in this sentence’s truth makes me feel naive and now I know what faith feels like.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *