Saturday, May 25, 2019

feeling that way


For some reason that gawdawful song has been in my head. And I don’t even like Journey. As I think about it though, there are plenty of reasons for it to be on the infinity loop.

I just finished a semester teaching the Roman Empire to middle schoolers. It’s impossible to study the Romans, whose culture was a conglomerate of everyone they subjugated, and not think about the rise of the American Empire. Parallels are also evident in the murderous vying for supreme power. And how can one not think of America in Rome’s discriminatory application of democratic ideals? The Roman empire also foreshadows the downfall of a nation preoccupied with domination at the expense of its citizenry.

Having daughters in high school, I am dismayed to learn history is still taught without explicating its social, psychological, religious and political blueprint. If we did, we might notice some of the aforementioned. Or create different socio-political synapses. We might even recognize who and what is left out of history books.

For example, my class textbook devoted a couple of sentences to how many times Julius Caesar was stabbed. No sentences, however, were devoted to what it was like for Roman mothers whose infants were thrown out. While the text provided the number of soldiers killed in battle, nary a word on the number of women and girls raped and impregnated as part of conquest. Thus the denial of the lived experience of women, in exchange for details on the violence of men, is imprinted in our social DNA as normative; evidenced by the current saga regarding women’s experiences and autonomy.

Since I taught English as well, I spent last semester talking about punctuation and plot, not climate disruption. Privately I read about oceans choking on our daily products, flooding in Mozambique and environmental refugees from Central America but spoke on proper nouns. I read about the terrifying milestone of 415 ppm and the next species to go extinct, unnoted by popular media, while I counted off for spelling.

Some days the distance between the actual world and the classroom is too much.

The disconnect is even more unbearable when my daughters have yet another day of standardized testing in lieu of lessons. Or when we’re asked to sell snacks filled with dead orangutans-I mean palm oil-packaged in plastic. Or when my daughter’s high school history teacher shuts down her group’s solution of male contraception as a way to combat a world problem.

As an educator I was directed to teach A and B to prepare my students for future C. Indeed, my own children are schooled in the same A and B preparation for a C future that you and I were. And yet our world is experiencing X. If what and how we were taught had prepared us, would we as a society, as a species, be in the political and existential mess we are in now? How then, will what has always been taught prepare our children for what is happening and what has never happened?

You feeling that way too?